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Syrian official says Damascus hopes for 'intensified' talks with Kurds

A member of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) takes part in a demonstration on January 21, 2018 alongside Syrian Kurds in the town of Amuda, some 30 kilometres west of Qamishli, against a military operation by the Turkish army against the Kurdis
DELIL SOULEIMAN (AFP)

The Syrian government is hoping to “intensify” the dialogue with Kurdish forces as part of Bashar al-Assad’s attempt to “unify” the war-torn country, the assistant Syrian Foreign Minister told Reuters on Sunday.

“We hope for the intensification of the dialogue. Many of the Kurdish statements were positive regarding their concern for the unity of Syria,” Ayman Sousan was quoted as saying.

Since US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal from Syria, the Kurds have reached out to Damascus and Moscow to strike a deal that would preserve autonomy in northern Syria as well as protect them from Turkey, which is preparing for a military operation across its border.

“We are confident that through dialogue we can deal with some of the demands ... and this dialogue guarantees that, as long as it based on a commitment to Syria’s unity,” Sousan added.

Turkey's President Erdogan has threatened to eradicate the YPG, which his government views as the Syrian branch of the Kurdish Worker’s Party, or PKK, which has waged a bloody insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.

Sousan concluded that the dialogue would address some of the challenges that lie ahead, “especially the expansionist ambitions that lead the policies of the Turkish regime”.

KAYHAN OZER (TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE/AFP/File)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is now touring the Middle East to explain Trump's withdrawal of troops from Syria, said "the importance of ensuring that the Turks don't slaughter the Kurds" was "still part of the American mission set". 

Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy ridiculed Pompeo's remarks, saying "Pompeo equating the YPG terror organisation with Kurds, (even) if it is not intentional, shows a worrying lack of knowledge."

Meanwhile, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who are backed by the US-led coalition against Islamic State (IS), said the jihadists are “living the final moments.”

“They realize that this battle is the battle to eliminate them,” Mustafa Bali, SDF media office head said.

Colonel Sean Ryan, the spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, also commented on the SDF’s efforts to eradicate IS.

“The SDF is making great progress and continues to liberate more territory once held by ISIS (Islamic State), but the fight continues,” Ryan said.

“The lasting defeat of ISIS is still the mission and they still present a very real threat to the long-term stability in this region, so it is not over yet,” he added.

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