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Syria's Kurds declare autonomy in north

By Eric DuVall   |   March 17, 2016 at 4:07 PM
| License Photo

DAMASCUS, Syria, March 17 (UPI) -- Syria's Kurdish minority, which already has de facto control of a large portion of the war-torn nation, has proclaimed its autonomy from President Bashar al-Assad's government.

The move was swiftly denounced by Assad's government, members of the opposition movement and officials in neighboring Turkey.

The decision was announced after three days of meetings between various elements of the Kurdish minority. Syria's Kurds are in control of a large swath of the northern part of the country, including a 250-mile stretch of the Syrian border with Turkey, running from the Euphrates River to the border with Iraq.

Northern Iraq has been under similar autonomous rule by the Kurds since the 1990s.

Kurdish officials tell Al Jazeera they arrived at the decision after being denied a seat at the table in Geneva, where peace negotiations between Assad and the opposition elements aligned against him are scheduled to begin negotiations in the coming days.

The Syrian foreign ministry issued a warning to "anyone who dares to undermine the unity of the land and the people of Syria under any title."

"Creating a union or a federal system ... contradicts the Syrian constitution and all the national concepts and international resolutions," the statement said.

The Kurds proclaimed their state within Syria will be named Rojava and officials said talks within the Kurdish tribes of the region would soon yield a plan for autonomous government of the area.

The move also angers neighboring Turkey, a Western ally in the region, where officials have long sought to tamp down anti-government protests among their own Kurdish population along the Syrian and Iraqi borders.

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