The co-chairman of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) Salih Muslim. AFP file photo.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Even before the expected battle for the ISIS-held Syrian city of Raqqa, a politician from the Democratic Union Party (PYD) has said that Raqqa could be a part of a “democratic federal” system in northern Syria.
"We expect (this) because our project is for all Syria ... and Raqqa can be part of it," Reuters reported PYD Co-Chair Salih Muslim as saying. "Our only concern is that the people of Raqqa are the ones who take the decision on everything."
It was announced on Monday that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had handed over responsibility for the administration in the Raqqa countryside to the so-called Raqqa Civil Council (RCC).
“We in al-Raqqa Civil Council thank SDF that fulfilled its promise of liberation, and today we see that a big part of al-Raqqa countryside has been liberated by virtue of the martyrs’ sacrifices and the heroic resistance of SDF with all its factions," a statement from RCC Co-Chair Layla Mostafa read.
"We also thank them on delivering the liberated areas to al-Raqqa council and its countryside, and we in our role proclaim to our people that al-Raqqa Civil Council will undertake the responsibility of the administration and citizens’ services by insuring the necessities for them, and the internal security will take over security and stability in the liberated areas," it added.
The RCC sees itself as administering Raqqa city after the liberation.
"Moreover, we look forward to the day of the city liberation, and by this, the city would be in the custody of our council.
The assault on the urban centre of Raqqa is expected to be launched within a couple of weeks, in early April.
“Regarding the decision to liberate Raqqa and storm it, the matter is decided and at the start of the month of April the military operation will begin,” Sipan Hemo, commander of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) told Reuters earlier this month.
The YPG, the PYD’s military arm, is one of the groups fighting ISIS under the SDF banner in northern Syria.
No decisions have been announced about what force will ultimately enter the city of Raqqa, ISIS’s so-called capital and the largest city it still controls in Syria.
The spokesperson for the US-led coalition to defeat ISIS spoke to Rudaw TV in mid-March about Raqqa operations.
"We've worked very closely with the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC). This is an organization that has been very successful in defeating Daesh in many places in northern Syria,” US Air Force Col. John Dorrian said.
“We, as a fundamental principle of our campaign, we want the force that liberates the city to reflect the same demographic makeup of the city,” he said. “So we know it'll be primarily Syrian Arabs, but there are also Kurds in Raqqa, and other elements, so we are going to work with those people as well.”
In late-February Turkey advocated for itself backing the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to participate in the Raqqa offensive, as it considers YPG to be linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a listed terrorist organization.
Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said in February the local Raqqa population should be supported by the international community, while “Turkey, US, and other elements can give logistic support to this city,” according to Anadolu Agency.
Raqqa “should not be left in the hands of other terrorist organizations,” he added, referring to YPG.