Syria’s Assad says Turkish PM cannot be
trusted in peace talks with Kurds
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (R) greeting
journalists with the Turkish television Ulusal and
Aydinlik newspaper in Damascus on April 2, 2013.
Assad said ‘I have neither left Syria nor died’. Photo:
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April 9, 2013
DAMASCUS,—Turkey is negotiating peace with
its separatist Kurds because of the conflict in
Syria and cannot be trusted to keep its promises,
Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad said.
Assad, whose regime is battling against an uprising
that is in its third year and has claimed an
estimated 70,000 lives, added that he opposed the
idea of Kurdish independence anywhere in the region,
claiming that only a small minority of Kurds favored
Assad said that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan, whose government is engaged in historic
peace negotiations for the separatist Kurdistan
Workers Party (PKK) to end three decades of armed
struggle, cannot be trusted to keep his promises.
“I do not trust this person. I doubt that he will
fulfill his promises,” Assad told Turkey’s
nationalist Ulusul TV channel and the Aydinlik
newspaper, which oppose Erdogan’s Justice and
Development Party (AKP).
“All the steps he has taken are temporary measures
to win support. Here again we ask the same question:
Why didn’t he take these steps a few years ago?” he
asked, adding that Turkish talks with the Kurds were
motivated by the conflict in Syria.
Erdogan’s party began indirect talks this year with
the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, who last
month called on his fighters in Turkey to disarm. If
the peace process succeeds,www.ekurd.net
it would end a three-decade internal conflict in
Turkey that has resulted in an estimated 40,000
The Syrian president said that his government
supports any steps to solve the Kurdish issue in
“Since the initial steps taken in Turkey a few years
ago to solve the Kurdish problem, our declared
position has been to support any solution between
the Turks and Kurds,” he said. “We do not want to
see more bloodshed in Turkey, which will no doubt
have a negative impact on the region.”
He also admitted that Syrian Kurds are not newcomers
to the region.
“Any genuine solution in this direction has our
support because the Kurds are a natural fabric of
the region. They are not guests or new immigrants.
They have been living in these lands for centuries,
for thousands of years,” Assad said, seemingly
apologizing for decades of injustice.
Since in 1962, 20 percent of Syria’s estimated two
million Kurds were deprived of their citizenship,
with the state arguing they were illegal immigrants
from neighboring countries. Human rights groups have
said Syrian Kurds have long faced discrimination
from the Arab government.
Assad admitted to past mistakes toward Syria’s
Kurdish citizens, saying that the Turks and Arabs
had not been inclusive.
“The problem with the concept in the past was
perhaps that the adopted mentality was one of
rejecting and eliminating other cultures,” Assad
said. “I believe that the most beautiful aspect of
this region is its diversity, and the most dangerous
aspect for us is not to see this diversity as
enriching and empowering,” Assad said.
Asked about the control of the Democratic Union
Party (PYD) -- the Syrian arm of the PKK -- over
Syria’s northern Kurdish areas since the start of
the uprising in 2011, Assad said that was natural.
“When there is chaos in any state, as is the case in
Syria at the moment, certain groups are bound to
appear in order to fill the vacuum,” he said.
Assad said he believed that, although there are
small Kurdish groups seeking separation in Syria and
who favor a “greater Kurdistan” created from the
Kurdish regions of Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran,
most Kurds do not support this notion.
“Most Kurds are patriotic people who want to live in
Syria,” he said. “This notion of separation is
completely rejected by the Syrian people and the
Syrian state. No sovereign state accepts a part of
its territory to be cut or separated from its
mainland. This position is categorically
unacceptable and is not subject to any discussions
with us in Syria,” Assad stressed.
He said that Syria, Iran, Iraq and Turkey would
never accept secession by their Kurdish populations,
and any contrary attempts would lead to wars.
“If we accept the notion of separation this means we
have to live with the consequences, namely the
fragmentation into small mini states based on
ethnicities, and sects,” he said. “This creates a
dangerous situation that would precipitate wars in
Although he rejected Kurdish nationalist demands,
Assad still said that the four countries with large
Kurdish minorities should do their best to let their
people feel they are first class citizens, with
equal stakes in their state.
“When a citizen feels he is second or third class he
is bound to think of separation or act against its
own state,” Assad said.
By Wladimir van Wilgenburg - Rudaw
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