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Syria's Kurdish-led northeast to be treated like rest of country - Syrian minister

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Syria's Kurdish-led northeast to be treated like rest of country - Syrian minister
FILE PHOTO: Syria's Minister of National Reconciliation Affairs Ali Haidar speaks during an interview with Reuters in his office in Damascus, Syria, March 19, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki   -   Copyright  Omar Sanadiki(Reuters)
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BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syria’s Kurdish-led northeast will not be given special treatment and will be dealt with in the same way as other parts of Syria, a government minister said on Tuesday.

“We cannot give any Syrian province something which differentiates it from other provinces or ethnicities, or (allow it) any situation which strikes at the idea that Syria is one country and one society,” Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar said in an interview with Russia’s Arabic-language Sputnik news agency.

A Kurdish-led administration in Syria’s northeast now holds more territory than any other group in Syria apart from the government itself. The Kurds have mostly avoided direct conflict with government forces during Syria’s civil war, while saying they seek autonomy in a decentralised state.

President Bashar al-Assad’s government has recaptured most areas from rebels opposed to his rule, frequently using what Damascus calls “reconciliation” deals under which insurgents agree to give up territory in return for safe passage out, often after intense air and ground campaigns. Assad has repeatedly pledged to take back “every inch” of Syria.

The main Kurdish groups have so far emerged as among the few winners of the conflict in Syria, carving out autonomous rule over large parts of the north under the control of the Kurdish-led and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia.

In recent months they have begun trying to forge ties with Damascus, seeking to protect gains made in seven years of war and wary of their unpredictable U.S. allies.

“The solution to the problem now is for the Kurdish groups dealing with America to turn their backs on this and turn to the Syrian state,” Haidar said.

(Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Peter Graff)

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