Interview with Abdulbasit Sieda of Syrian National Council
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region -- Abdulbasit Sieda, the head of the Syrian National Council (SNC), was recently in Erbil where he met with Kurdish President Massoud Barzani and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, as well as the representatives of the Kurdish National Council (KNC).
The SNC is the largest Syrian opposition umbrella group, mostly comprised of Sunni Arab parties. Despite numerous efforts by the SNC, most Syrian Kurdish groups have refused to join the council as they are concerned about its attitude and policies toward Kurdish rights in Syria and what place they will have in the country after the fall of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Rudaw sat down with Abdulbasit Sieda in Erbil.
Rudaw: Having accepted a Saudi proposal that the Syrian dossier be referred to the United Nations, do you think the international community is now seeking a solution?
Abdulbasit Sieda: Until now, the international community has managed the Syrian crisis. We hope from now on they will try to resolve it, because if the situation continues the way it is, it will have a far worse impact on Syria, the region and the international community.
We were in Doha (Qatar’s capital) a few days ago and met with our Qatari brothers. They said they are trying to take an Arab League resolution regarding Syria to the U.N. Although it is not a binding resolution, after the Security Council’s door is closed and vetoes are used, this resolution can act as a backup for international legitimacy.
Rudaw: The members of the delegation that accompanied you to the Kurdistan Region are mostly from Hasaka area. Why have you only brought Hasaka representatives with you on this trip?
Abdulbasit Sieda: They came here to discuss the problems that recently emerged in the Hasaka and Jezira areas because the Kurdish flag and the flag of the PYD (Democratic Union Party) were recently raised in those areas. This created some tensions with the Arab and Christian residents of the area and that is not desirable. One needs to show that the ethnic and religious groups of this region have a similar fate and have no option but coexistence.
The Arabs and Christians in Hasaka acknowledge that a great injustice has been committed against the Kurds and the traces of that injustice need to be resolved. These representatives, who are also representatives of the SNC, have a special role among the Arab tribes and Christians of that area. Their visit to the Kurdistan Region is meant to emphasize that the Kurdish question will be resolved within the broader Syrian national project.
Rudaw: Your visit to Erbil coincided with the visit of the Kurdish Supreme Council and the representatives of People’s Council of Western Kurdistan and the Kurdish National Council. Was that planned or just a coincidence?
Abdulbasit Sieda: [Laughing] In the world of politics, there is no such thing as a coincidence. We thank our brothers in the Kurdistan Region who arranged the visits so we can meet and talk with each other.
Rudaw: There are reports that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu proposed that a coordination committee be established between Turkey, the Kurdistan Region, the Kurdish Supreme Committee and the SNC. What are the details of that proposal?
Abdulbasit Sieda: We congratulate and support any party that has a positive initiative for rescuing Syria from this crisis, whether that party is from Syria or another country. We are not aware of this proposal but if there is something, we will look into it. If it is good, we will try to implement it, and if it there are shortcomings to it, we will give our views on that.
Rudaw: One can feel a change in the PYD’s position. They are now ready to sit down with Turkey and the SNC. Why don’t you meet with them?
Abdulbasit Sieda: We are not against negotiating with the PYD. There are no personal problems between us. Sometimes people just don’t think the same way. We have told the PYD that if they consider themselves part of the Kurdish struggle in Syria and part of the Syrian revolution and if they want Syria to be liberated from Assad and his regime’s tyranny, then there are no obstacles in the way of talks and negotiations.
Rudaw: Wouldn’t it have been better if the PYD had attended the meeting between Kurdish organizations and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu?
Abdulbasit Sieda: We had nothing to do with organizing the meeting. Friends arranged the meeting and we attended. I always say dialogue is the best option, but for the PYD to attend such a meeting, the ground would need to be prepared for that. It would have undoubtedly been better if the PYD had been present. But there is some sensitivity between them and Turkey and it will take time for that to be resolved. It is a positive thing that PYD’s participation in the meeting or lack of it is being debated. The PYD also needs to send the message that it is ready for change and should not say one thing and do another thing.
Rudaw: It is said that Davutoglu asked the KNC to visit Turkey. Is that true?
Abdulbasit Sieda: I am not aware of that but it is not unlikely.