PYD's Muslim: The US and Russia may tell Turkey to 'get out of Syria'
PYD Co-President stated that Russia and the US may have reached an agreement in order to get Turkey out of Syria. He said Russia built a base in Efrîn in order to fight gang groups and that the relations between the PYD and Moscow continue as before.
ANF spoke to PYD (Democratic Union Party) Co-President Saleh Muslim on the Raqqa operation, talks with the US and Russia, Turkey's threats, and the developments around Manbij and Efrîn.
How will course of events progress in Syria after Raqqa?
The liberation of Raqqa from ISIS is important in two aspects. Firstly, it is important for the security of the region and our peoples in Rojava. The enemy will be expelled from the territory of our people and peoples will be safer. The war will be moved away from our borders.
Secondly, it is important for the people of Raqqa who will thus get rid of these barbaric gangs and organize their own lives. Our democratic federal system will expand to a larger ground. If they choose to do so, the people of Raqqa will join this system. We witness that many people living in villages and towns around Raqqa that have recently been liberated adopt and join the Federal system.
At what level do the people of Raqqa participate in this operation?
Around 75 percent of the fighters that are currently joining the campaign and fighting to liberate Raqqa are from Raqqa and surroundings. The operation is carried out with the participation of local forces.
What will happen after Raqqa is liberated? Will ISIS end?
No, ISIS will not end but the fight against ISIS will change shape. ISIS will receive a deadly blow but they will transform.
Currently, they are settled and deployed in cities in groups. After Raqqa, they will disperse and stay mostly in rural areas in small groups. This struggle may continue for another 2-3 years.
So you are saying that ISIS will remain as a threat?
Yes, it will be a threat but not only for us. They will continue to pose a threat to the stability of this region because there are also other entities that bear the mentality of ISIS. For example, some of the groups supported by Turkey share ISIS' mentality. They have the same ideology. Therefore, the liberation of Raqqa and even Mosul will be important but will not mark the end of ISIS. This will transform the format of the struggle against ISIS.
Will the liberation of Raqqa enable a resolution of the problems in Syria?
No, no. The Syrian issue will continue. There is Idlib yet. Let's say ISIS has been expelled from Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. What about the other regions? Al-Nusra and other groups are based in the most fertile parts of Syria. These are all al Qaida-derived groups. The war in and around Idlib will be more challenging because these groups are situated across a mountainous geography. Furthermore, this region is closer to the Turkish border. These groups are in a mountainous area and have the ability to maneuver in a region that stretches all the way until İskenderun.
What kind of an impact will Raqqa operation have on your relations with international powers?
Our relations with international powers are based on mutual interests. We are not formed by different powers, we are independent and based on our own force. Just like how the US and Russia came to the Middle East for their interests, we as Kurdish people have our own interests and goals as well. Our relation with these powers is in the scope of the fight against ISIS terrorism. ISIS is an enemy of ours and theirs. Our relations developed and continue on this basis. The promises we made mutually have been kept and we have not had any problems. However, we would like to give these relations a political aspect and develop them. I am guessing that these powers also want to develop these relations.
We are the most effective force against terrorism in the region in all aspects. We are a force and we make our decisions ourselves. They too see and know that there is no other force that is as effective as us in the fight against terrorism. They are the ones to decide to what extent our relations will develop. Our talks continue.
So, on which political grounds is an agreement needed?
We have our project of Democratic Federal Syria that aims to democratize Syria. They also say that they want a democratic Syria. Even though it is at discourse level, they say that they do not want the division of Syria. We do not want Syria to be divided either. We want to remain as a part of Syria. We are on the same grounds with international powers on this issue. However, we will continue to work towards bringing our project to life in all cases. In the future, there may be disagreements and we may find ourselves in a different scenario. This is not an issue of us not wanting the division of Syria. There are different dynamics and a consensus may not be reached. We will be prepared for another case situation as well. We want to make our relations rooted and permanent in any case. Like I said, these relations are based on mutual interests and will remain so.
Are there any indications that your relations will have a political format after Raqqa?
Yes, there are. However, we do not have any written agreements. The US and other forces have wider regional goals. The issue is not only Syria or Kurdistan. There are many issues such as the US-Russia, NATO, relations with Turkey and Ukraine. The situation is more complicated for them. They may need to choose between NATO and Turkey in the future. This is because NATO is important for them. Because of their interests with Turkey, they may choose to end their relations with us. We are aware of this reality. However, we do not know yet what they will do. But we want our relations to continue on the basis of mutual interest. Still, we are not and will never be anyone's servant. We act in accordance with our interests and will continue to do so. We want our relations to continue in this framework.
What is happening around Manbij? There are Russian and US troops there. Is there an agreement with Russia?
Yes, an agreement has been made between Russia and the Manbij Military Council. The regime is not a direct partner of this agreement, Russia is. Regime soldiers have been stationed in 6 villages as part of this agreement with Russia.
Erdoğan says ‘we will attack.’ There is Russia and the US there, what exactly is the situation?
The regime and Russia are acting together there, as are the Manbij Military Council and US troops there. The US and Russia have relations in this region. Nobody messes with the other, which means they are in rapport with each other. I think that the US and Russia, too, may have an agreement on the grounds.
What kind of an agreement?
I think the US and Russia may have reached an agreement regarding the presence of Turkey there. Russia and the US may tell Turkey to 'get out of Syria, get your hands off of here' in the near future. In my opinion, these two powers may object to Turkey's presence in Syria.
When and how? Under what conditions may such a stance be taken against Turkey?
Both the US and Russia are aware of what Turkey is currently doing there. Turkey is an invading force in Shehba, it is attacking the people and pursuing a hostile policy. The US and Russia may say Turkey to 'get out of here so that Syrian people can govern themselves.' Turkey went there with the excuse of fighting ISIS but there is no ISIS there. The Syrian regime is not there either. Therefore, Turkey is in an invading position there.
It is Syrian dynamics that should govern there, not Turkey. Turkey's position in Syria is not accepted in the international arena. Therefore, it is highly possible for Russia and the US to take a stance.
How are your relations with Russia? How did the improvement of the relations between Russia and Turkey impact you?
Our relations continue as they used to. Our Moscow office continues its activities. There has been no change in our relations. Russia's approach towards us has not changed. The promises we have made to each other have been kept mutually.
Russia familiar with us and the federal system we propose. We talked to them about our project. They are not against us but there is not a written agreement between us. Russia says that Syrians will determine the future of Syria and make their own decisions. Our relations continue within this framework.
It had been announced that Moscow mediated between you and Damascus?
Yes, Russia mediated between us and the regime. The issue is that our problem is about democracy, not whether the regime will remain or not. If there is democratization and the federal system develops, the regime will not remain as it is anyway.
Did you sit at the table with the Damascus administration?
Now, we talked to the Russians and they relayed it to them. Russia mediated the talk, this was the format of the talks at Khmeimim base. Russia held separate talks between the parties and relayed the demands to the other sides. There was a meeting in which 19 Kurdish organisations including TEV-DEM participated but it did not yield any results. The present regime does not have the mentality to accept us yet. Its mentality is the same as before and has not changed. It shares the same mentality with Turkey and Iran. They do not recognize the existence of Kurds. It is not possible for us to live with this regime and mentality.
What is happening around Efrîn? Turkey's attacks continue on the one hand, and an agreement was made with Russia on the other hand.
Attacks on Efrîn never stopped. Gang groups backed by Turkey continue their attacks. There have occurred clashes in which we lost some fighters. Turkey continues its attacks from the border as well.
For which purpose did Russia come to Efrîn?
Some say that Russia came to Efrîn in order to defend the Kurds. This is not the case. Cilvegöz Border Gate is close to Efrîn's Jinderes district. This gate and its surroundings, as well as the area around Atma camp, is the transit route of gang groups. Atma camp serves as the training center of al-Nusra. There are many different groups here and they sometimes clash with one another, which result in explosions and deaths. This area is close to our region. Russia wants to fight against these groups but it does have no other geographic position to do this. They cannot reach here from Aleppo or the south.
Russia has come to Efrîn in the framework of fight against terrorism. These groups attack us as well and we want them to be cleared in this area. Russian troops came to the region within the framework of this agreement.
What is the biggest threat for you?
Turkey is the biggest threat for us. Turkey's Kurd-phobia is dangerous. The Turkish government is getting more and more isolated and is pursuing an aggressive policy as this happens. They see us as an enemy. We informed international powers on Turkey's approach. Their relation with ISIS is also known. They want to come to Raqqa with the excuse of fighting ISIS but their goal is to save ISIS. Everyone observes this policy and rejects it. Whatever we said regarding Turkey since the beginning is coming true. Other powers are also aware of this reality now.