Syria to consider granting Kurds greater autonomy

Discussions on extended powers for Syrian Kurds to begin once Assad government defeats ISIL, foreign minister says.

    Kurdish-led authorities held a vote on Friday in northern Syria [Delil Souleiman/Getty Images]
    Kurdish-led authorities held a vote on Friday in northern Syria [Delil Souleiman/Getty Images]

    Syria is considering granting its minority Kurdish population further autonomy for the first time, a government official has said.

    Walid Muallem, Syria's foreign minister, said his country is open to the idea of greater powers for the country's Kurds, who accounted for 15 percent of the country's population prior to the Syrian civil war.

    Once the military campaign of President Bashar al-Assad's government against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group operating in Syria is over, discussions can begin, he said.

    "[Syrian Kurds] want a form of autonomy within the framework of the borders of the state," Muaellem said on Tuesday, according to SANA, the Syrian state news agency.

    "This is negotiable and can be the subject of dialogue."

    READ MORE: Syrians vote in Kurdish-held northern region

    Kurdish-led authorities held an election on Friday in northern Syria, marking the beginning of a three-stage process to set up new systems of governance in order to strengthen the Kurds regional autonomy in the country.

    Voters elected leaders for about 3,700 "communes" spread across three regions of the north where Kurdish groups have established autonomous rule since 2011, when Syria's civil war began.

    Faisal Mekdad, Syria's deputy foreign minister, had previously labelled the elections a "joke".

    "Syria will never ever allow any part of its territory to be separated," he said on August 6.

    Friday's poll will be followed in November by votes for local councils positions and culminate in January with the election of an assembly that will act as a parliament for a federal system of government in northern Syria.

    Kurdish referendum

    Kurds in neighbouring Iraq held a referendum on independence on Monday, following a push for full autonomy by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the country's northeastern region.

    The ballot is expected to return a majority "yes" vote when results are announced, which is anticipated to be within 72 hours.

    Muallem repeated the Syrian government's previously stated opposition to the KRG referendum, labelling it "a separatist referendum" and "fully unacceptable in our [the Syrian government's] eyes".

    "We support the unity of Iraq," he said.


    How different voting systems work around the world

    How different voting systems work around the world

    Nearly two billion voters in 52 countries around the world will head to the polls this year to elect their leaders.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    How the art world's hunger for ancient artefacts is destroying a centuries-old culture. A journey across the Himalayas.