QAMISHLI, Syria (Reuters) – Syrian Kurdish leaders aim to secure a Russian-mediated political deal with President Bashar al-Assad’s government regardless of U.S. plans to withdraw from their region, a senior Kurdish official told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) fire rifles at a drone operated by Islamic State militants in Raqqa, Syria, June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/File Photo

The Kurdish-led administration that runs much of northern Syria presented a road map for an agreement with Assad during recent meetings in Russia and are awaiting Moscow’s response, Badran Jia Kurd, who attended, said.

If such a deal could be agreed, it would piece back together the two biggest chunks of a country splintered by eight years of war and leave one corner of the northwest in the hands of anti-Assad rebels backed by Turkey.

The talks with Russia and new overtures towards Damascus underline a recalibration of Kurdish strategy since President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw U.S. forces whose presence has stabilized the Kurdish-led region.

Their immediate priority is to find a way to shield the region from Turkey, which views the Kurdish YPG militia as a national security threat.

Turkey has already sent its army into Syria twice to roll back the YPG. But it has held off attacking the large Kurdish-controlled area of the northeast where U.S. forces operate.

Trump, who has not set out a withdrawal timetable, said on Wednesday the United States would leave slowly “over a period of time”. He also said the United States wanted to protect Kurds, who have been vital to the U.S. campaign against Islamic State.

Jia Kurd welcomed the idea of a slow withdrawal but said the United States had not…

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Mayra Rodriguez

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Mayra Rodriguez
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