Syria's Kurds criticize Damascus 'threats'
OMAR OIL FIELD, Syria – Syria's Kurds have criticized the "threatening language" of the Damascus regime after it pledged to retake northeastern areas they control by reconciliation or by force.
The minority have largely stayed out of Syria's war, instead carving out a de-facto autonomous region across a large swathe of northern and northeastern Syria.
That region is held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces who have been battling the Islamic State group with backing from a US-led coalition.
Syrian Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayoub on Monday, March 18, said his government would recapture all areas held by the SDF "in one of two ways: a reconciliation agreement or...by force."
In a statement late Monday, the semi-autonomous administration slammed his comments.
"The Syrian defense minister's statement regarding the SDF...reflects the continuation of the racist and sterile policy that has led Syria to this disastrous situation," it said in a statement.
"The use of threatening language against the SDF who have liberated and protected the north and east of Syria from terrorists only serves those forces working to divide Syria," it said.
US President Donald Trump's announcement in December of a pullout of all American forces from Syria shocked the Kurds and sent them grappling to mend fences with Damascus.
Dialogue between both sides has been ongoing, but has failed to bear fruit.
Damascus rejects Kurdish self-rule and wants a return of government institutions to oil-rich SDF-held areas.
The Kurds want protection from a long-threatened Turkish offensive, but seek some form of decentralization from Damascus.
"The autonomous administration...stands by its position of the need for a solution and dialogue within the Syrian framework for all pending issues," the Kurdish authorities said.
"But we want all sides to know that we, while choosing the political solution, we will spare no effort in the legitimate defense of our rights if necessary," he said.
Eight years into a war that has killed more than 370,000 people, the Damascus regime controls almost two-thirds of the country after a series of victories against rebels and jihadists.
But the SDF-held region, a northwestern jihadist bastion and border areas held by Turkey's Syrian proxies remain beyond its control. – Rappler.com