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Syrian Kurdish leaders lose negotiating paper after US abandoned them

SYRIA (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — A US withdrawal from Syria has cost Kurdish leaders a strong bargaining chip with Damascus in their bid to secure autonomy and make their fate hang on Damascus ally Russia.

Syrian Kurdish officials said on Monday a Russian-brokered deal with Damascus centered on the deployment of army troops on the border. They said the two sides would discuss political matters later.

“The priority now is to keep the border security from the Turkish threat,” senior Kurdish politician Aldar Khalil told Reuters in a message.

But the deployment of the army raises doubts about the future of an area in northeastern Syria, rich in oil, water and farmland, where the YPG has established autonomy.

The Kurds emerged victorious in the war in Syria more than eight years after they crushed ISIS together with US forces. They hope to strengthen their autonomy inside Syria.

But that is now threatened. Washington’s move to withdraw its troops opened the way for the Turkish offensive, leaving Syrian Kurds seeking help from President Bashar al-Assad and Moscow.

While the United States is due to complete its troop withdrawal within days, analysts say the Kurdish authority has lost an important negotiating advantage to bolster its efforts to reach a political deal with Damascus that would preserve their gains.

Troops went to the border with Turkey on Monday and entered towns that the YPG had controlled for years. There was no official comment from the Syrian government other than official media reports.

“The Kurds are bankrupt, their paper is falling, and they want to stick to any branch and uncle,” said a regional source close to Damascus.

Joshua Landis, head of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, said despite the oil trade and Turkey’s common animosity, Damascus and the Kurds “don’t agree on anything about governing northeast Syria.”

“Their big differences will be over language, schools, military independence and all mechanisms of self-government.”

– Differences –

Syria’s Kurds, long pursued by the Baathist state, rarely clashed with Assad in the war years, and at times even fought a common enemy such as anti-Assad opponents involved in the Turkish offensive.

Previous attempts to negotiate between the two sides have yielded no results. Damascus has always been opposed to granting the Kurds the level of autonomy they want. The Assad government earlier this year threatened Kurdish fighters with military defeat if they did not agree to return to state sovereignty.

The government struck a deal with Kurdish forces to deploy on the border after the United States said on Sunday it would withdraw its remaining 1,000 troops from Syria after Turkey expanded its offensive.

Turkey considers the YPG as a terrorist organization linked to Kurdish rebels inside.

The Syrian army, under Russian supervision, will be deployed from the border town of Manbij to Derek under the new agreement with the Syrian Democratic Forces led by the YPG.

Kurdish leader Aldar Khalil said a number of sticking points could be discussed after the Turkish threat subsided. “We are continuing to reach a common formula in the future with the government of Damascus.”

“This is a preliminary military agreement and the political aspects have not been discussed and will be discussed at later stages,” said Badran Jia Kurd, another senior Kurdish official.

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