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2019-10-08 › Kurdistan Region officials call on Russia to protect Kurds in northern Syria

 ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – In meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday, Kurdistan Region officials urged Russia to step in and protect the Kurds of Syria following a US green light to a unilateral Turkish military operation.

Lavrov visited Iraq and the Kurdistan Region on Monday to discuss a broad range of topics, including energy ties.

Though the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has long been on bad terms with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Kurdish party ruling northeast Syria, Kurdistan Region officials took the opportunity to call on Russia to protect Kurds in Syria.

“President Barzani expressed his worries regarding the future of Kurds in Syria to the Russian Foreign Minister and asked that Russia play its role in case of any event or change to prevent further suffering and pain of the Kurdish people in Syria,” a statement from the office of KDP president and former President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani read.

Barzani reiterated Tuesday his concern for events in the Kurdish-majority region, commonly known as Rojava, and promised sustained support for the area. 

"We are very concerned about the recent developments in Western Kurdistan. We are in contact with several channels and we will do our utmost to ensure that the people of Rojava are not subjected to any more disasters," the KDP leader said in a tweet.

Former Iraqi Foreign Minister and KDP Politburo member Hoshyar Zebari attended the meeting, after which he hailed Lavrov’s visit to the Region as “historical” in comments to Rudaw.

“We expressed our worry frankly so that the conditions of the areas of Eastern Euphrates, as they call it, do not become destabilized due to any military operation," Zebari said.

"That is why his Excellency President [Masoud Barzani] asked Lavrov to use his influence to prevent any humanitarian tragedy or people fleeing from these areas, so that they don't affect the Kurdistan Region or its conditions.”

"The talks were good, and opinions were very similar,” he added.

On Monday, the White House abruptly announced that it would withdraw from Syria, following a Sunday phone call between US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The announcement was labelled as a “betrayal” by many Kurds, as a US force presence in the area was seen to act as a bastion against a possible Turkish operation in the area.

Trump later defended his decision, telling Kurds to “figure the situation out.”

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzani also took the opportunity to discuss the fate of Syria’s Kurds in his meeting with the Russian FM.

“I underscored the urgency of developments in Syria [with Lavrov], and called on Russia to help promote a long-lasting political solution that protects the rights and dignity of all the Syrian peoples, including the Kurdish people,” read a tweet from Masrour Barzani following his meeting with the Russian official.

Russia plays a pivotal role in Syria. Along with Iran, they are the main backers of President Bashar al-Assad's regime. It is also one of the guarantors of the Constitution Committee, which is expected to begin drafting a new constitution for Syria. Few of the 150-member committee are Kurds.

Kurdish authorities in northern Syria have complained about their lack of representation on the committee, but Turkey has vetoed membership of the ruling Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) due to its alleged organic connections with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) - a named terrorist group in Turkey, struggling for the political and cultural rights of Kurds in the country.

Much like the US currently, Russia was accused of abandoning the Kurds in the face of a Turkish offensive against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin in early 2018.

Russia's government has called on all foreign troops to withdraw from Syria, but it not clear what reaction it will have if a Turkish incursion takes place.

Mohammed Rwanduzy contributed to this report

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