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The Kurds in Syria are vying for control over oil-rich areas in the country with the Syrian Arab army, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told his Russian counterpart on Wednesday.
“They [the Kurds] know well that Syria will not allow its sovereignty to be violated under any conditions,” al-Moallem told Sergey Lavrov at a meeting in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi, as carried by Reuters.
“They are now drunk on U.S. assistance and support. But they need to understand that this assistance won’t last forever,” the Syrian foreign minister said.
Al-Moallem also said at the meeting with Lavrov that the U.S.-led coalition in Syria was “methodically destroying all except the IS.”
Up to 35 million Kurds live in the mountains straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Armenia. Kurds have never had an independent state, although they are the fourth-biggest ethnic group in the Middle East. Kurdish forces have been helping international coalitions to drive Islamic State out of Iraq and Syria.
But tensions over Kurds and their self-rule have been rising since the Kurdistan region in Iraq held an independence referendum on September 25, in which the Kurds overwhelmingly voted for independence. The vote is seen as unconstitutional by Iraq and all its neighbors, as well as by Iran and Turkey—alongside the Iraq federal government—the most outspoken opponents of any Kurdish secession.
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Just after the Iraqi Kurdistan referendum, Syrian Kurd leaders told Reuters that they want autonomy as part of a decentralized Syria, but not secession. The Syrian government has said that it could be open to talks with Kurds when the fight against Islamic State is over.
Backed by the U.S.-led coalition, the Kurdish YPG militia has recaptured many territories in Syria from ISIS since 2011. The main Kurdish parties in Syria now hold almost a quarter of the country.
“Autonomy does not mean separation,” Kurdish politician Ilham Ahmed told Reuters at the end of September.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.