Raqqa to be part of decentralized Syria, say Kurdish-led militia

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 20, 2017 6:13 AM

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Raqqa will be part of a decentralized federal Syria now the city has been freed from Islamic State, the U.S.-backed militias that captured it said on Friday, tying its future to Kurdish-led plans to set up autonomous regions in the north.

The Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said the people of the majority Arab city and surrounding province would decide their own future "within the framework of a decentralized, federal democratic Syria".

"We pledge to protect the frontiers of the province against all external threats," the SDF said in a statement read out by its spokesman in central Raqqa, which was finally captured on Tuesday after four months of battles.

Kurdish-led authorities in other parts of northern Syria are already moving ahead with plans to establish the federal system in areas they control, kicking off a three-phase election process last month in Kurdish majority regions.

The plans for autonomous zones in northern Syria have encountered broad opposition from the United States, neighboring Turkey, and the Syrian government in Damascus.

The SDF, which is dominated by the Kurdish YPG militia, says it intends to hand control of Raqqa to a civil council and police force set up under its auspices with support from the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State.

President Bashar al-Assad, who is regaining territory with Iranian and Russian military support, has repeatedly said the Syrian state will recover control over the entire country, which has been fractured by six years of conflict.

(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Catherine Evans and Andrew Heavens)