TOP SYRIAN KURD HOPES ASSAD SERIOUS ABOUT TALK

by Tom Perry
A top Syrian Kurdish politician said he hopes President is serious aboBashar al-Assad ut negotiating with Kurdish-led forces and he signaled a readiness for talks without conditions.
Aldar Xelil, one of the most influential figures in Syrian Kurdish politics, said there had been no steps yet toward negotiations mooted by Assad last month, but that any agreement between the sides would be “a historic turning point”.
“We don’t know the extent of their seriousness or preparation for this, but we hope these
statements reflect serious intentions,” Xelil told Reuters in a telephone
Direct negotiations between Kurdish groups that control much of northern Syria and Damascus would reshape the seven-year-old conflict and - if successful - hold out the prospect of a deal between two sides which together hold most of the country.
Such talks would also complicate U.S. policy in Syria, which today rests largely on a military alliance with the YPG, the main Kurdish militia. U.S. forces have deployed in areas held by Kurdish-led militias during the fight against Islamic State.
Unlike rebels who have fought Assad, the YPG and YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have mostly avoided conflict with Damascus. Instead, they have focused on Islamic State and guarding their autonomy.
The areas controlled by Kurdish-led forces include oil, farmland and water resources critical to the economy.
Assad said last month the state was opening “doors for negotiations” with the SDF, but if these failed it would resort to force to recapture areas where some 2,000 U.S. forces are stationed. He also pledged that U.S. troops would leave.
Xelil, co-chair of the Movement for a Democratic Society, which groups a number of parties, said Assad’s threat of force was regrettable and “all efforts must be focused on how to develop the peaceful option”.
He said any negotiations should aim to achieve a decentralized “democratic Syria that encompasses ... the Kurdish people and other groups”, and not governed by one group.
But he added, “We don’t want get ahead of things and propose matters so they become like conditions...The most important thing is accepting the principle of negotiations.”