Damascus set to discuss autonomy for Syria Kurds

The Syrian government is ready to discuss autonomy for the country’s Kurds, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has said, the first time Damascus has openly accepted such a possibility.

Muallem renewed his opposition however to an independence referendum held by Kurds in neighboring Iraq on Monday. State news agency SANA quoted Muallem telling Russia Today on Monday night that Syria’s Kurds “want a form of autonomy within the framework of the borders of the state.”

“This is negotiable and can be the subject of dialogue,” he said. “As soon as we have defeated Daesh, we can sit down with our Syrian brothers and agree on a formula for the future,” he added, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

Syria’s Kurds are a leading force against IS, and are supported in their campaign by the US-led coalition fighting the jihadists. The Syrian government is fighting its own separate Russian-backed campaign against IS.

Muallem repeated his opposition to an independence vote held by Iraq’s Kurds on Monday, calling it a “separatist referendum” and “totally unacceptable in our eyes.” “We support the unity of Iraq,” he said.

Muallem had already criticized the vote. Syria’s Kurds, who made up 15 percent of the country’s pre-war population, largely stayed out of the uprising that started the conflict in March 2011.

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