Andrey Baklanov: "The creation of the Kurdish state is absolutely out of the question"
Since the beginning of the year, the Kurdish issue has become particularly acute, especially due to the US attempts to strengthen its presence in the Middle East through military support for the Kurdish forces in Northern Syria. Washington's actions provoked Ankara to launch a new military operation, the Olive Branch, aiming to destroy the terrorist corridor in Afrin and other areas inhabited mainly by Kurds from Syria and Iraq. Vestnik Kavkaza spoke with the deputy chairman of the Association of Russian diplomats, Andrey Baklanov, about the current development of the Kurdish issue.
- Andrey Glebovich, in your estimation, what are the aspirations and goals of the Kurdish political activists in the Middle East today? Is it possible to say that the Kurds are an inter-state ethnopolitical unity?
- The current situation is specific, because a number of the Kurdish national movement leaders are sure that they have a unique chance to create their own state, and it must be used. They know that their role in defeating the terrorist group of Islamic State condemned by the international community and banned in Russia was very important because they are the most trained military units of the forces that fought against militants in Northern Syria and some other territories. Therefore, they believe that their merits should be duly appreciated by the international community. It should provide favorable conditions for resolving the issue of building their national home - an independent state.
Their moods are reinforced by the fact that all Arab states are weakened now, and Iran is in a difficult situation since the sanctions issue and its joining the international community have not been fully resolved. That is, according to the leaders of the Kurdish national movement, those countries, where there is the Kurdish minority, are weak, and this situation they see as an opportunity to raise more rigidly and definitely the issue of resolving the problem of the national center by creating an independent state.
- How is this new statement of the Kurdish issue assessed in the countries of their residence - Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria?
- The Kurds’ aspirations are rejected by all those countries that have the Kurdish minority since no one agrees that an independent Kurdish state should be created on its territory and at its expense. Turkey has the toughest position because Kurds make up about 1/5 of the country’s population. Iraq believes that Kurds’ autonomy is sufficient enough. Iran, in general, opposes this issue, as for Tehran, Kurds are the part of the Iranian people, and they are granted all civil rights. The Syrian leadership, in turn, believes that if the life is built properly and balanced on a democratic basis, then all the nationalities in the country, including Kurds, will feel comfortable. Therefore, when there were probing approaches to the Syrian leadership 2-3 years ago, Damascus opposed granting of the broad autonomy to Kurds inside the state, since it considered that the Kurdish issue, like all other issues - national, ethnic or religious - should be addressed by improving the overall situation in the state.
- What is Iraq and Iran’s attitude to the Turkish Olive Branch operation in Afrin in this regard?
- In addition to the basic problems that exist, there are the issues related to the military actions and the anti-terrorist component of the solution to the Syrian crisis in recent years. That is, the new problems have been laid upon the old ones. This has created the additional difficulties. When assessing the Olive Branch, it is necessary to take into account Turkey's concern over the security of its borders, and the neighboring countries’ concerns, and, of course, the need for clear guarantees for the comfortable accommodation of Kurds in their territories. It is still difficult to foresee how to make it happen before an additional research and politicians’ activity is carried out. They should offer some mechanisms to solve this problem. Of course, at the first stage, it is necessary to ensure that the situation is not fueled by the military actions.
- What are the possible ways out of this situation?
- The Kurdish specificity characteristic of Syria is that in those regions that they consider their own historically, there is no ethnic predominance of Kurds. There is a strip of ethnic groups: in some regions, more Kurds live, in others - more Arabs. And this means that the creation of the Kurdish state will lead to another problem - the issue of the Arab ethnic minorities. That is why the Syrian leadership believes that it is more reasonable to solve this problem thoroughly and democratically in the realities of the 21st century. Thus, despite the emerging opportunities for raising the Kurdish state issue, there are no real conditions for this, while the vigorous advancement of this slogan can lead to the very dangerous regional consequences. It will not be possible to create the Kurdish state, this is absolutely out of the question, so the most reasonable thing is a search for the certain negotiating formats.
Perhaps, it will be possible to invent a certain heuristic way for preserving the territorial integrity of existing states and meeting the needs of Kurds by providing them more significant status. I would cite as an example the Tanzanian variant, where there are two historic parts - Tanganyika with the Swahili African population and Arabic Zanzibar. Zanzibar, which is smaller, joined larger Tanganyika, and Tanzania was created this way. The state exists in this form due to the disproportionately large representation of Zanzibar in the national leadership. Zanzibarians not only solve the main tasks on their island but also work in the central government, foreign institutions and law enforcement agencies, in particular, a representative of Zanzibar is a Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity. This solution can be an option to the settlement of the Kurdish issue if there is an appropriate preparation.
- Why does the US support Kurds and what countries provide them the largest support?
-I think that the US supports Kurds exclusively for the opportunistic reasons: now Washington has been pushed aside from the solution of the key issues in Syria, its importance has sharply decreased in neighboring Iraq, and their position on Iran looks simply illogical. Due to this, the United States is looking for options and opportunities to join the alignment of forces and become an important actor once again. Initially, they planned to do so on a wider geographical scale, including the territory of most Arab countries, then focused on Iraq and Syria, and now their military activity has declined and covers only a part of the territory of these countries, concentrating on the Kurdish issue. I think it would be better if their influence, due to the viciousness of their politics and the lack of a constructive element, decreases even more, and they move away from solving the problems of Kurds. The US participation in the conflicts of any level, as we all know well, does not lead to anything good, and neither Kurds themselves will benefit from their ‘good offices’, nor other nations.
- What is the Russian position on the Kurdish issue?
- Russia occupies a low-key position, it is based on a desire to take into account the legitimate and understandable concerns of all participants of this protracted conflict originated from the colonial system. We do not want to take anybody's side, but we urge all sides to abandon attempts to promote their interests at the expense of others and move from the military confrontation and outbreaks of hostility to finding such a format for negotiations where the voice of each of the participant would be heard on an equal footing. While there are no such formats, they need to be created, otherwise, this problem would not be solved.