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SDF Commander-in-Chief Says Damascus Wants Raqqa, Deir Ezzor In Exchange For Settlement

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The Damascus government wants the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to hand over the SDF-held parts of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor in exchange for a political settlement, Commander-in-Chief of the SDF, Ferhat Abdi Şahin, claimed on July 4.

Şahin, whose is known by his nom de guerre Mazlum Abdi, made his remarks while he was attending a rare meeting with Arab tribal leaders from Raqqa in al-Hasakah city.

The Kurdish commander said that the SDF will not accept these demands, stressing that Raqqa and Deir Ezzor will be run by their respective councils. He also noted that the two areas were liberated by their “sons.”

“There are no solutions to the Syrian crisis looming at the moment, despite the fact that many meetings were held in Geneva, Astana and Sochi, but they did not work,” the North Press Agency quoted Şahin as saying.

Last year, Damascus and the SDF reached a breakthrough military agreement. The agreement allowed the Syrian Arab Army to deploy large forces in northeast Syria. This put an end to the Turkish-led attack on the region, which started in October.

Despite serious efforts by Russia, Damascus and the SDF failed to reach a full settlement. The U.S. restrengthened its presence in northeast Syria after the end of the Turkish-led attack. This drew the SDF away from Damascus, again.

Şahin’s new remarks indicate that the SDF is not willing to reach a full political settlement with Damascus as for now. Both Raqqa and Deir Ezzor are Arab majority provinces. This means that if the Kurds accept the deal, they won’t lose any of their areas in the northeast. However, the Kurdish leadership has repeatedly demonstrated that they have much wider demands than an ordnairy autonomy of Kurdish-majority areas. In fact, it wants to turn northeastern Syria into a de-facto semi-independent state ruled by the current SDF leadership.

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