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MIDEAST > Interim assembly first step toward government: Syrian Kurdish leader

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'This is a constituent assembly not a government. We have established it to meet the needs of the Syrian Kurds. If preparations are finished there will be elections in three months,' Muslim told Anadolu Agency on Nov. 13. DHA photo

'This is a constituent assembly not a government. We have established it to meet the needs of the Syrian Kurds. If preparations are finished there will be elections in three months,' Muslim told Anadolu Agency on Nov. 13. DHA photo

The Syrian Kurds’ announcement of an interim assembly in the northern parts of Syria controlled by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) is the first step toward an interim government, the group’s co-chair Saleh Muslim has said.
 
“This is a constituent assembly, not a government. We have established it to meet the needs of the Syrian Kurds. If preparations are finished there will be elections in three months,” Muslim told Anadolu Agency on Nov. 13.
 
The People's Defense Units (YPG), the armed wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) affiliated PYD, have prevailed over jihadist groups linked with al-Qaeda in the predominantly Kurdish areas of Syria, which Kurds refer to as Rojava.
 
Emphasizing that the assembly was not an administration yet, Muslim said that the Syrian Kurds were aiming to establish a civilian administration.
 
The move was harshly criticized by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who accused the PYD of not “keeping its promise.”
 
"We told them to avoid a de facto administration declaration that could divide Syria. We told them to put a distance between themselves and the [al-Assad] regime," Davutoğlu said during a live interview on private broadcaster NTV on Nov. 12.
 
Davutoğlu also argued that Ankara received several complaints from other Kurdish opposition groups, who felt “under pressure” due to the PYD’s “ambivalent posture.”
 
Muslim said that the Syrian Kurdish Union Party, the Azadi Party and the Kurdish Democratic Party had not participated due to the reaction of Turkey and the Syrian National Coalition despite being invited by the PYD.
 
Muslim also denied that the declaration was announced to overshadow Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) leader Massoud Barzani’s Diyarbakır visit. “This [move] is not against anyone or about anyone,” Muslim said.

No contact with al-Assad

In a separate interview with Reuters, Muslim said the PYD had received aid, money and weapons from the Iraq-based Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan or the PKK.

Muslim also pointed that 30 percent of Syria's oil wells were under Kurdish control, but none were currently producing any oil, and there were no immediate plans to bring them into operation. 

Despite allegations that his party had cooperated at some level with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, Muslim said there had been "no contact".

"I don't think al-Assad would accept autonomy for us because even until the last minute he refused," he said. 

Muslim had visited Turkey twice in a brief period in July and August as the open conflict between Kurdish milita groups and jihadist rebels mounted, causing a refugee outflow in Rojava. He reportedly discussed with Turkish officials the PYD's plans to form an autonomous administration that had triggered concerns in Ankara.

November/13/2013

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