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.
“[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.”
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.
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.