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Syrian regime minister dismisses Kurdish elections as 'a joke'

Kurdish groups and their allies control large swathes of northern Syria. [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 August, 2017

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A senior Syrian regime minister has belittled scheduled elections in Kurdish-controlled regions of the country later this year, dismissing the plan as a 'joke'.
A senior Syrian regime minister has belittled scheduled elections in Kurdish-controlled regions of the country later this year, dismissing the plan as "a joke".

The Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria last month set dates for local council and regional assembly elections, a move viewed as consolidating growing federal autonomy amid Syria's civil war.

Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said the elections would not be allowed to threaten the country's territorial unity, saying the regime must eventually assert control over Kurdish-led areas.

"[The elections] will be a joke. Syria will never ever allow any part of its territory to be separated," Mekdad said in Damascus in an interview with Reuters and the BBC.

Kurdish groups in northern Syria have carved out self-governing autonomous regions since early in Syria's six-year civil war, but have said they do not seek independence from Damascus.

"We believe that in the north of Syria we have Syrian citizens who will not endanger the situation in the country or move ahead to any manifestation of dividing Syria," Mekdad said.

"Those who will move in those directions know what price they have to pay," he added.

Kurdish groups and their allies control large swathes of northern Syria - known to Kurds as Rojava or "West Kurdistan" - through the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The scheduled elections were agreed by the Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria set up last December, and will see voting at both a local and regional level.

When asked if the Syrian regime was willing to take back control of Kurdish areas the Syrian minister said: "It is not a matter of 'willing' it is a matter of 'must'."

"The territorial integrity of Syria will never be under dispute," he added and called on the international community to maintain Syria's unity.

He also urged the US to stop its activities inside Syria, saying its actions were illegal.

US support for the Syrian Democratic forces - an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters - has been critical to a campaign to retake Raqqa from the Islamic State group.

Washington's backing of the group has led to tensions with Turkey, who fears a Kurdish political entity along its southern border.

Commentators say continued US support for Syrian Kurds would be critical for any prospects of meaningful autonomy.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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