Syrian Kurds declare federal region, drawing wide criticism
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Syrian Kurds declare federal region, drawing wide criticism

Assad government, opposition both reject move; foreign ministry calls announcement ‘worthless’ and ‘unconstitutional’

Aldar Khalil (C),from the Movement for a Democtratic Society, and Sheikh Hamad Sheikh Shihadeh (R), the Naim clan chief in northern Syria, speak during a meeting of more than 150 delegates from Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian and other parties in the town of Rmeilan, in Syria's northeastern Hasakeh province, on March 16, 2016.(AFP / DELIL SOULEIMAN)
Aldar Khalil (C),from the Movement for a Democtratic Society, and Sheikh Hamad Sheikh Shihadeh (R), the Naim clan chief in northern Syria, speak during a meeting of more than 150 delegates from Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian and other parties in the town of Rmeilan, in Syria's northeastern Hasakeh province, on March 16, 2016.(AFP / DELIL SOULEIMAN)

The main Syrian Kurdish group declared a federal region on Thursday in Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria, a move that was immediately rejected by both the government and opposition.

Nawaf Khalil, an official with the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, told The Associated Press that the announcement was made at a conference being held in the town of Rmeilan in the northeastern province of Hassakeh.

The move was rejected by the Syrian Foreign Ministry describing it as “unconstitutional and worthless.” It warned against any attempt to encroach upon the integrity of Syrian territory.

The Syrian National Coalition, one of the main Syrian opposition groups, also said it rejected such unilateral declarations and warned of any attempt to form autonomous regions that “confiscate the will of the Syrian people.”

Khalil said participants in the Rmeilan meeting approved a “democratic federal system for Rojava-Northern Syria.” Rojava is a Kurdish word that refers to three distinct enclaves, or cantons, under Kurdish control in northern Syria: Jazira, Kobani and Afrin.

Khalil said participants who include Turkmen, Arabs, Christian and Kurds in northern Syria said after they approved the draft that they are now preparing a final statement that will be read later Thursday.

“Federal and Democratic Syria is a guarantee of coexistence and brotherly relations between people,” read a banner posted online from inside the room of the Rmeilan conference.

The declaration risks angering Turkey, which is wary of any bid by Syrian Kurds to solidify their autonomy.

The move will centralize governance in areas that Kurdish parties and their allies already control.

The borders and other administrative details concerning the region would be discussed on Thursday, officials said.

Kurdish officials have insisted the move will not be a first step toward independence.

Kurdish parties already operate a system of three “autonomous administrations” in Syria’s north, with independent police forces and schools.

The three cantons run along Syria’s northern border with Turkey and are known as Afrin and Kobane, both in Aleppo province, and Jazire in Hasakeh province.

Salih Muslim, the co-president of the PYD, said by telephone that those meeting “are setting up the basis on how constituencies will deal with each other.”

 

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