Kurdish Expansion Plans Risk  Undermining Syria Safe Zones 

Kurdish troops in Syria (File Photo)Kurdish troops in Syria (File Photo)

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces plan to significantly expand the de facto autonomous region they administer in northern Syria once they liberate Raqqa, raising questions as to whether these ambitions would undermine Russia’s peace-building efforts in the war-torn country.

The Kurds are intent on creating a corridor between areas under their control and the Mediterranean Sea. They also want to push the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group out of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, subsequently offering both cities a chance to become part of their federal system, Russia’s Sputnik News reported.

Kurdish post-Raqqa objectives were unveiled earlier this month by Hediya Yousef, co-chairperson of the executive committee of Rojava, a de facto autonomous region in northern Syria, administered by the Kurds. It consists of three self-governing cantons, namely Afrin, Jazira and Kobani.

The news came soon after Moscow, Ankara and Tehran reached an agreement aimed at establishing four safe zones in Syria.

The Kurdish plans are likely to upset other stakeholders intent on bringing the devastating conflict to an end.

This would be inevitable should the Syrian Kurds decide to move to the west. Yousef explained that Rojava needs access to international trade routes.

In her view, the corridor to the Mediterranean is the only option since the self-administered region does not have economic relations with Turkey to the north, Iraqi Kurdistan to the east and radicals to the south.

Ankara maintains that the Syrian Kurds are affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey views as a terrorist organization. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his supporters have also said that the Syrian Kurds are fighting for greater autonomy, if not independence, which could fuel unrest in southeastern Turkey, mostly populated by the Kurds.

Relations between Damascus and the Syrian Kurds have largely remained neutral. But this is likely to change if the SDF decides to advance to the Mediterranean since they would move into territories in the provinces of Idlib and Latakia populated by the Arabs, not the Kurds.

Washington’s ties with the SDF are also a major factor.


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