US-backed Kurds agree with government to end violence

DAMASCUS: Syria’s US-backed Kurds said on Saturday they had agreed with the government to cooperate on ending a conflict that has plagued the country for more than seven years.
The Syrian Democratic Council, the political wing of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) allied with the United States, said the agreement had been made during talks last week in the Syrian capital Damascus.
“The meeting resulted in an agreement to form committees at different levels… conducive to putting an end to violence and war,” the council said in a statement, adding that the committees would create roadmap for a “democratic, decentralised Syria.”
There was no immediate official comment from the government in Damascus. Syria’s ethnic Kurdish minority is eyeing autonomy from the central government.
In May, Syrian President Bashar al Assad said he was ready for negotiations with the SDF.
However, he threatened to use force to get the SDF out of the regions it controls if it failed to take part.
Co-head of the Syrian Democratic Council, Riad Darar, said on Saturday that both the council and the Syrian government had “the desire to see Syria recover. We seek a political solution rather than confrontation.”
He defended the Kurds’ alliance with the US. “We had to cooperate with the US and the international coalition in order to liberate our land from IS,” he said.
The SDF has played a major role in fighting IS militants in Syria. SDF-held territory stretches across northern and northeastern Syria.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Syrian refugees returned to their country from Lebanon on Saturday in a bus convoy arranged by both governments, advancing an effort by Beirut to accelerate returns to areas where fighting has ended.
Syrian state television reported that about 1,200 refugees were expected to cross back into the country from Lebanon on Saturday before returning to their homes.
Lebanon’s security chief Abbas Ibrahim said “the coming period will witness the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Lebanon” in comments reported by Hezbollah’s Al Manar television channel.
State television in Syria and the private Al Jadeed channel in Lebanon showed buses full of refugees at the crossing point on the frontier.
It is the latest in a series of recent returns arranged by the two countries.
Lebanon hosts more than a million Syrian refugees, more than a quarter of its population, and leading Lebanese politicians have said many of them should go home as Syrian President Bashar al Assad has restored his rule across much of the country.
Last week, a senior official from Russia was in Beirut to discuss a plan for mass returns of refugees and its defence ministry said over 1.7 million would be able to return to Syria from abroad in the near future.
In another development, a UN official said violence against children in Syria has increased dramatically since the beginning of this year.
More than 600 children have been killed or maimed thus far in 2018, Virginia Gamba, the United Nation’s special representative on children in armed conflict, told the UN
Security Council. — Agencies