Syrian Kurds hold local elections, press on with autonomy plans

QAMISHLI, Syria: Kurdish-led authorities held local elections on Friday in the swathes of northern Syria they seized with US help, pushing ahead with autonomy plans opposed by both Turkey and Damascus. Kurdish forces and their political allies now hold the largest part of Syria outside the control of President Bashar al Assad’s government. They have captured vast territory from IS with the support of US arms, jets and ground advisers, although Washington opposes their autonomy drive. Kurdish leaders say their goal is to establish self-rule within Syria, not secession. But their influence has infuriated Ankara, which considers the Kurdish YPG militia to be an offshoot of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has run a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.
Assad has vowed to recover every inch of the country, as his territorial grip expanded rapidly over the past two years. Damascus has more forcefully asserted its claim to territory held by Kurdish-led forces in recent months.
Since Syria’s conflict began more than six years ago, the dominant Kurdish parties have been left out of international diplomacy in line with Turkish wishes. They were excluded again from UN-led peace talks which reconvened in Geneva this week. Hadiya Yousef, a senior Kurdish politician, said the Kurdish-led administration would not be bound by decisions taken in its absence. — Reuters