By Bassam Saker
Talks on the future of Syria are being supported by the United Nations and hailed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as the way forward, but these talks are doomed to failure. Why? So far, these talks have excluded any representation from our autonomous democratic government in North and East Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces, and the Syrian Democratic Council.
How can democratic Syria be expected to accept the results of peace talks that we have been deliberately excluded from?
The United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 was unanimously adopted by the United Nations on December 15, 2015. It called for a ceasefire and set up a venue for a political settlement in Syria. “The Syrian people will decide the future of Syria,” read the text of the mandate.
As an official in the Syrian Democratic Council, the political arm of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), I can assure you that we stand ready to participate in these talks, if we are invited.
Secretary Blinken has spared no opportunity to remind the world that the United States remains committed to UNSCR 2254. At the end of July, he stated, “I also reaffirmed our strong support for UN-led efforts to reach a political solution that will bring an end to Syria’s decade-long conflict consistent with UNSCR 2254.”
Secretary Blinken also mentioned UNSCR 2254 while discussing Syrian aid and border crossings on March 29, 2021, stating, “it’s important to note that the only long-term solution to this suffering is through a political settlement and permanent resolution to the conflict, as outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 2254.”
But listening to the remarks by Secretary Blinken, as well as those of other US government officials, you may never know that a significant part of Syria was being excluded from the talks.
The project for a democratic Syria currently represents one-third of Syria and governs approximately five million people. We call for a unified and democratic Syria. The Syrian Democratic Council is the body that has been nominated by the Syrian Democratic Forces and the AANES to negotiate politically on their behalf. The council views peaceful, diplomatic, political negotiations as the means to find a solution to the Syrian crisis, not further militarism.
Our government administration effectively provides services such as healthcare, education, electricity, water, sanitation services, armed forces, and internal security forces to our people across the area north and east of the Euphrates River. Our forces, the Syrian Democratic Forces, have been celebrated across the world for our defeat of ISIS. Our region remains the most stable region of Syria.
Yet, we remain excluded from the negotiating table of the United Nations. There is no place at the table for those inside Syria seeking to light the way toward democracy.
Why are we being kept out? Because Turkish government officials have pressured the other actors to exclude us.
Turkey views our efforts to build a true democracy as a threat. We stand just on the other side of the Turkey-Syria border. On our side is an inclusive, multi-ethnic, diverse rainbow of democracy. On their side is an increasingly nationalistic, authoritarian, oppressive regime that wants to cover the earth with the red and white Turkish flag. They see our legitimate struggles against the violent Turkish occupation and oppression of our lands as terrorism. That is why, in addition to trying to exclude us from peace talks, Turkey continues to bomb us, spur migration out of the Syrian lands they occupy, and Turkify areas of Syria.
The international community must stand against this pressure by Turkey and call for all actors, including us, to be present in talks on the future of Syria.
The voices of democracy in Syria must have meaningful representation in talks mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 2254. We must also be included in the Syrian Constitutional Committee. Our representatives will help ensure that the voice of true democracy is expressed at the negotiating table.
If we remain excluded, democratic Syria may just refuse to accept the results of the peace talks. We must be included if these talks are expected to succeed.