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Syrian Kurdish-Arab council readies for talks with Assad regime Open in fullscreen

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Syrian Kurdish-Arab council readies for talks with Assad regime

The SDF still control just under a third of Syria. [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 July, 2018

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The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) is linked to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed militia that holds much of the country's north and northeast.
The political arm of a powerful alliance of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters said on Monday it was working on a negotiating team for talks with Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) is linked to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed militia, which holds much of the country's north and northeast.

Those areas are outside Syrian regime control, and are mostly managed by autonomous Kurdish-run administrations.

Bashar al-Assad's regime view these local councils as a challenge to state authority.

On Monday, the SDC gathered in the northern town of Tabqa for a meeting that included Kurdish officials and members of Syria's tolerated domestic opposition.

"One of the meeting's aims is to create a platform to negotiate with the Syrian regime," leading SDC member Hekmat Habib told AFP.

"This platform will represent all areas in the autonomous administration and all areas held by the SDF," he said, without providing further details.

Long marginalised, Syria's Kurds have largely stayed out of the country's seven-year civil war, instead focusing on building their own institutions.

With Russian backing, regime forces have retaken control of large swathes of Syria since 2015, and now hold sway over more than 60 percent of Syrian territory.

But the SDF still control just under a third of the country including key oil fields, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group monitoring the war.

Much of the land under SDF control - including Tabqa and the nearby northern city of Raqqa - was captured during a US-backed offensive against the Islamic State group.

In June, the SDC said it was ready for "unconditional talks" with President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

That came after the president warned he would use force to retake land from the SDF if talks failed.

Several days later, a delegation from Syria's tolerated domestic opposition made a rare visit to the north-eastern city of Qamishli, most of which is held by Kurdish forces linked to the SDF.

It was not immediately clear what shape these talks would take. 

Neither the SDC nor Kurdish bodies have ever been independently invited to take part in peace talks hosted by the United Nations.

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