Foreign relations of Rojava
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politics and government of
The foreign relations of Rojava refers to the external relations of the Rojava self-proclaimed autonomous region in Syria. The region, consisting of three cantons (Afrin, Kobani and Jazira), follows a political system known as democratic confederalism and was formed in early 2014, as part of the Rojava Revolution. It is currently embroiled in the Syrian Civil War, a conflict that has caused the involvement of many different countries and international organizations in the area.
The Constitution of Rojava, which defines Rojava as an integral part of Syria and not a separate country, states that "the Autonomous Regions shall not interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries, and it shall safeguard its relations with neighboring states, resolving any conflicts peacefully." It also mandates, among other executive council bodies, a Body of Foreign Relations.
Foreign relations of the Federation of Northern Syria - Rojava
Relations with UN member states
- Albania – Albania is one of the main sources of weapons flowing to Rojava's People's Protection Units (YPG) through the US-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
- Belgium – In September 2016, the 8th conference of Rojava's leading Democratic Union Party (PYD) was held in Brussels. 500 PYD members, including its leaders, and many others (including Abdul Rahman Haji Ahmadi) attended.
- Czech Republic – The YPG opened an official representation office in Prague in April . The relationship with the YPG on particular has been described as "amicable", and "Czech Defense Ministry and other officials are said to regularly hobnob with YPG cadres." The Czech Republic is one of the main sources of weapons flowing to the YPG through the US-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
- Finland – According to Suomen Kuvalehti magazine, Finland is planning on giving Rojava support for developing government and rebuilding infrastructure.
- France – In May 2016, the Rojava administration opened a representation office in Paris. In February 2015, President Francois Hollande met with the PYD co-leader Asya Abdullah and the Women's Protection Units (YPJ) commander Nesrin Abdullah in the Elysee Palace. French Special Operations Command Forces are supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces in operations. In August 2016, a French delegation and the People’s Municipality Board in Rojava signed a contract to open a center in the Kurdish and French languages in order to bring the cultures of Rojava and France together, and the opening of a branch of the Paris 8 University in Rojava was also discussed.
- Germany – In May 2016, the Rojava administration opened a representation office in Berlin. In August 2016, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier condemned Turkish attacks against the Syrian Democratic Forces and pointed out that Turkey has to join the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), "not to fight Syrian Kurds".
- Greece – The co-chairman of the PYD, Salih Muslim, has been an official guest of Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras' governing Syriza party at their congress in October 2016. In February 2016, Muslim attended the Öcalan Conference in Athens.
- Iraq – Iraqi Kurdistan – Rojava shares much culturally with Iraqi Kurdistan, an autonomous region of Iraq, but has many political differences. There has been military cooperation with Iraqi Kurdistan and the United States in the conflit against ISIL, although neither gives official support for Rojava or the YPG. The Kurdistan Regional Government, which the Kurdistan Democratic Party runs, is an ally of Turkey and has co-operated to enforce a unilateral economic blockade against Rojava which has damaged and limited Rojava's economy. The "Sultanistic system" of Iraqi Kurdistan stands in stark contrast to the Democratic Confederalist system of Rojava.
- Italy – In June 2015, YPJ commander Nesrin Abdullah was invited to speak in the Italian parliament. In July 2016, the co-chairperson of the PYD, Asya Abdullah, held talks with a number of senior government officials in Rome.
- Netherlands – In September 2016, the Rojava administration opened a representation office in The Hague.
- Norway – In Novemver 2016, the city of Oslo in its City Hall hosted a "New World Embassy" event dedicated to Rojava, "After Belonging", bringing representatives from Rojava together with international politicians, diplomats, academics, journalists, students, artists, and more.
- Russia – In February 2016, the Rojava administration opened a representation office in Moscow amid growing ties between Russia and Rojava. Russia has lent outstanding support to Rojava in the diplomatic arena, in particular more clearly than any other country calling for its inclusion in the Geneva III peace talks on Syria, and to some degree carrying their positions into the talks, as documented in Russia's May 2016 draft for a new constitution for Syria.
- Sweden – In April 2016, the Rojava administration opened a representation office in Stockholm.
- Turkey – Neighbouring Turkey has received PYD co-chair Salih Muslim for talks in 2013 and in 2014, even entertaining the idea of opening a Rojava representation office in Ankara "if it's suitable with Ankara's policies.". Nonwithstanding, Turkey is persistently hostile, because it feels threatened by Rojava's emergence encouraging activism for autonomy among Kurds in Turkey and the Kurdish–Turkish conflict, and in this context in particular Rojava's leading Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the YPG militia being members of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) network of organisations, which also includes both political and militant assertively Kurdish organizations in Turkey itself, including the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Turkey's policy towards Rojava is based on an economic blockade, persistent attempts of international isolation, opposition to the cooperation of the international Anti-ISIL-coalition with Rojava militias, and support of Islamist Syrian Civil War parties hostile towards Rojava, in past times even including ISIL. Turkey has on several occasions also been militarily attacking Rojava territory and defence forces. The latter has resulted in some of the most clearcut instances of international solidarity with Rojava. In the perception of much of the Turkish public, the Rojava federal project as well as U.S. support for the YPG against ISIL are elements of a wider conspiracy scheme by a "mastermind" with the aim to weaken or even dismember Turkey, in order to prevent its imminent rise as a global power. Opposition leader Selahattin Demirtas has argued for Turkey and other countries to recognize Rojava and work with it as a partner.
- United Kingdom – In January 2015, a British Parliament committee asked the government of Prime Minister David Cameron to explain and justify its policy of not working with Rojava's military in combating ISIL. In July 2015, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office formally declared that "the UK has engaged with Saleh Muslim, co-leader of the Democratic Union Party (PYD)". Since then, United Kingdom Special Forces are supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces in operations. Democratic Union Party (PYD) co-chairperson Salih Muslim was invited to speak in the British Parliament Parliament in 2015 and in 2016.
- United States – The US Department of State announced limited support for the PYD in February 2016, although it opposes the unilateral establishment of a federal region in northern Syria. In March 2016, the day after the declaration of the Federation of Northern Syria - Rojava, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter praised the Rojava YPG militia as having "proven to be excellent partners of ours on the ground in fighting ISIL. We are grateful for that, and we intend to continue to do that, recognizing the complexities of their regional role." The USA have usually supported the YPG militia in its fight against ISIL, both with air support in combat and with embedded US Special Forces. During the Northern Raqqa offensive (May 2016), US Special Operation Forces were widely reported and photographed taking part, wearing YPG and YPJ badges on their uniforms. When in June 2016 the Manbij offensive started, the Washington Post reported it under the headline of "Ignoring Turkey, U.S. backs Kurds in drive against ISIS in Syria". On 7 November 2016, when asked about the federalization of Syria, Mark C. Toner, the Deputy Spokesperson for the US Department of State, said "We don’t want to see any kind of ad hoc federalism or federalist system arise. We don’t want to see semi-autonomous zones. The reality is, though, as territory is liberated from Daesh, you got to get some kind of governance back into these areas, but by no means are we condoning or – any kind of, as I said, ad hoc semi-autonomous areas in northern Syria".
Relations with international organisations
- CJTF–OIR – The US-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) collaborates closely and comprehensively with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
- European Union – In July 2016, the European Parliament drew much political attention with a photo exhibition dedicated to Rojava. In September 2016, Democratic Union Party (PYD) co-chairperson Salih Muslim was invited to address the European Parliament.
- United Nations – While the Rojava administration is not invited to the Geneva III peace talks on Syria, or any of the earlier talks, Russia, which calls for their inclusion, does to some degree carry their positions into the talks, as documented in Russia's May 2016 draft for a new constitution for Syria. On 6 June 2016, the PYD said that the United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura sent a detailed letter to the PYD leadership with an invitation to the next round of talks. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) co-operates refugee camps for inbound Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Rojava, most notably the camp in Al-Hawl.
Relations with international civil society
The socio-political transformations of the "Rojava Revolution" have inspired much attention in international media, both in mainstream media and in dedicated progressive leftist media.
Among the established international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) active in Rojava are Handicap International and DanChurchAid, while many established NGOs are deterred by the aggressive Turkish embargo policy. However, there are numerous purpose-built initiatives of international support for Rojava and people in Rojava as well as a considerable amount of freelance volunteers. The international volunteers with the People's Protection Units (YPG) self-defence militia have been widely reported on, as to a lesser extent have the international volunteers with the Rojava Plan infrastructure-building initiative.
A number of international NGOs help to support huge number of refugees who have fled to Rojava from other parts of Syria or from Iraq, while trying to keep a low profile for the aforementioned reason.
Foreign relations of Rojava cantons
In 2016, talks about the establishment of a French cultural centre in the town of Amuda began.
In September 2016, Kurdish Red Crescent opened a hospital in Kobanî under the name of "Kobani Hospital", their first hospital in Kobanî Canton, after many international organizations had given a helping hand as well as sending them special medical equipment, UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders in particurlar.
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