On Thursday, Syrian Kurds in the country’s norther region announced the formation of an autonomous federal region within Syria. The sudden move has drawn negative comment from the United States, the current Syrian regime and Turkey, the latter of which has long opposed the formation of an independent Kurdish state.
The new federal region is to be named Rojava, a word already widely in use among Kurdish populations that refers to the general area of northern Syria. The Syrian Kurds have been participants in the Syrian Civil War that has gone on for the past five years, generally acting only to defend traditionally Kurdish territory from rebel groups and from the Islamic State. Now, with peace talks underway in Geneva, the Kurdish groups will combine three previously semi-autonomous areas into a more cohesive political unit. These peace talks have not included Kurdish representative due to the classification of the PKK, a Kurdish nationalist group, as a terrorist organization by Turkey, against which the group did carry out several terrorist attacks throughout the 1970s and 1980s before a long ceasefire that lasted until 2004. Since then, conflict between Turkey and the PKK has been sporadic but present.
In a rare moment of agreement, Turkey, the United States and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad all condemned the decleration of a separate Kurdish autonomous zone. In the case of the Syrian regime, the loss of the region controlled by Syrian Kurds would deprive the country of a large amount of territory if and when its civil war ends in the re-establishment of power by the Assad regime. Turkey and the United States, both sponsors of the Geneva peace talks, have opposed the move on the grounds of ensuring the continued cohesiveness of Syria as a nation-state. “We’re committed to the unity and territorial integrity of Syria…I don’t want to predict what the future’s going to look like, but right now, we do not support self-autonomous zones or self-rule in that regard,” said John Kirby, spokesman for the United States State Department, regarding the matter.
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