The imminent withdrawal of American military forces from northern Syria has precipitated the process of political discussions in the region.
Large parts of northern Syria have been self-governed and self-administered for most of the civil conflict in the country. The self-governed region has been known as the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria. This region is not de jure recognised as a separate political entity in itself, but it has been administering its own affairs independently of the central government in Damascus.
Nevertheless, the resurgence of the Syrian regime in Damascus and the threat posed by Turkey and the Turkish-backed rebels to the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria have pushed political authorities in the region to negotiate with Damascus. This diplomatic process was announced by the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) back in mid-2018. This process has been accelerated with the announcement of the imminent withdrawal of American troops from northern Syria as ISIS has been all but eradicated from the region.
Political authorities in the north are still keen on having an open dialogue with Damascus:
“We do not want a fruitless and unguided dialogue. We want a logical dialogue”, noted Ibrahim Qaftan, head of the Future Syria Party.
The Democratic Federation of Northern Syria itself is politically fractured, as there are varying levels of hostility and ambiguity with regards to the role of Turkey in the north of Syria.
The main political party, the Democratic Union party (PYD), is adamant that Turkey represents a grave threat to the Kurdish and minority populations in the north of Syria. Past events, such as the taking over of Afrin from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) by the Turkish-backed rebels, and the mentioning by Turkey of its intentions to pull Manbij into their control and zone of influence, have pushed local authorities to seek some form of assistance from Damascus.
Other political forces, such as the Kurdish National Coalition (ENKS), are more lenient towards Turkey and Turkish-backed rebels, who have recently suggested that the ENKS can assume responsibility to govern the Kurdish-dominated regions.