Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaking to press in Damascus on Monday. Photo: AFP/HO/SANA
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Syria’s president has condemned as “traitors” Kurds allied with the United States in the north of the country.
“All those who work under the command of any foreign country in their own country and against their army and people are traitors, quite simply, regardless of their names, and that is our evaluation of the groups that work for the Americans in Syria,” President Bashar al-Assad said on Monday, responding to a reporter’s question about Kurdish activities, according to state media SANA.
Kurdish forces, the YPG and its umbrella organization the SDF, have largely avoided conflict with Syrian state forces during the country’s civil war, but Assad has said the war in Syria is also against groups who seek to divide or weaken the state and people in his administration have said that they will “liberate” areas under SDF control.
The SDF General Command responded to Assad’s statement, saying that his dictatorship is “the definition of treason” and the people rebelled against his “authoritarian oppressive security regime.”
The Kurds have battled ISIS in northern Syria with the support of the US-led global coalition. In doing so, they have carved out a self-autonomous enclave, holding elections and calling for their federal model to be applied throughout the country.
They now control about a quarter of Syria, but the YPG and the PYD, the ruling Kurdish political party, have been left out of international peace efforts. This has largely been at the demand of Turkey, who considers the groups extensions of the PKK, a named terrorist organization. A charge the YPG and PYD deny.
Russia, however, has supported including the Kurds in talks and has assisted them militarily in the eastern oil-rich province of Deir ez-Zor.
Assad made his comments speaking to the press after a meeting with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.
The Syrian leader hailed the strong relations between Damascus and Moscow and said he looked forward to future cooperation, including economic, between them. Assad said that given Russia’s military assistance, it would be natural for the ally to also be an important partner in reconstructing the war-ravaged country.
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