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Kurdish-led SDF visits Damascus for second round of talks

The SDF is a US-backed Arab-Kurdish alliance [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 August, 2018

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A delegation from the Syrian Democratic Council discussed local administration and decentralisation with the Syrian government in Damascus, local news reported.

The political arm of the Kurdish majority and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) attended a second round of talks with the Syrian government, pro-government al-Watan newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The delegation from the Syrian Democratic Council discussed local administration and decentralisation, according to al-Watan, which cited its co-chair Riad Darar.

"All the discussions happening now are ... to find out the other side's point of view," he said. The talks "need a lot of reflection to make decisions, and so the matter was left to other meetings".

Similar talks were held in Damascus last month which resulted in an agreement between Syrian regime officials in Damascus  and the SDF to "create a road map leading to a decentralised democratic Syrian state", signalling a potentially momentous breakthrough in the resolution of the seven-year-long crisis.

The group at the time said the meeting was held at the invitation of the Syrian government.

"The aim of the meeting was to lay the foundations for broader and more comprehensive dialogue in order to resolve the Syrian crisis on various levels."

Read more: After Daraa, will Assad reconquer all of Syria?

It went on to say that the delegations agreed to form committees that would hold further negotiations in order to "end the violence and war that plagues the Syrian people," as well as to "create a road map leading to a decentralised democratic Syrian state".

The SDF is spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, which has mostly avoided conflict with Assad. The militia said it aims to secure Kurdish rights rather than topple the government, which has set them apart from other rebel factions, many of which have been defeated in much of the territory they once held.

Most of Syria is under the control of either President Bashar al-Assad's forces or the Kurdish-dominated SDF, after a series of Russian-backed victories in recent months saw Damascus retake much of the south. 

The SDF has made a series of deals with Damascus in recent years, notably in Aleppo when Assad's troops decimated Syrian Arab rebel groups making a final stand to hold the city. 

The SDF also came to an agreement with Assad's regime during the Turkish incursion into the then-Kurdish-held Afrin canton in Syria's north-west corner, allowing Kurdish fighters to cross regime-held territory in a doomed bid to repel Turkish troops and their allies.

The SDF, whose military is largely funded by the US as a counter-IS initiative, holds more than 27 percent of the country's territory, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

Read more: Who's who in Syria?

The SDF holds Kurdish-majority areas as well as the Arab-majority city of Raqqa, which previously served as the de facto Syrian capital of the Islamic State group.
The SDF's political wing said it was ready for unconditional peace talks with the central government in Damascus after Assad stated he would not hesitate to use force to retake the country from their control.

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