Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the region of Rojava, located about 60 kilometers (35 miles) southeast of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, have signed an agreement to begin a process of “Rojava independence” with the central government of Syria.
The announcement comes days after the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) announced it would withdraw from the region under the auspices of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Kurdish, Arab and Islamic State (ISIS) factions that has been fighting alongside the SDF since July 2014.
Under the agreement, which will also include a plan for future Kurdish-led governance in Rojava and the region, Kurdish leaders said they would establish a government of “people’s power” based on the principles of self-rule and autonomy.
Under this framework, the central Kurdish government will also have the right to establish a referendum to determine whether to join the SAA.
The SDF has since formally joined the SNC, which has a similar plan for a future Kurdish state.
The deal is a further sign of support for Kurdish independence by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has accused the PKK and SDF of terrorism and is demanding a political solution to the conflict.
Since the end of the Arab Spring, Rojava has witnessed a series of offensives against the Assad regime by Kurdish fighters, including the “liberation” of Sinjar, where the Turkish army has been battling ISIS and the PKK since early 2014.
The Kurdish movement, which gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1923, has been facing a resurgence of the Islamic State group since the summer of 2017, which is the group’s largest territorial gain.
In August, the PKK announced it had captured large swathes of Syria and Iraq from ISIS.
In September, Kurdish forces captured the border town of Jarabulus, a major supply route between Turkey and Iraq, marking a significant victory for Kurdish forces in their battle against the Islamic group.
The border crossing with Syria is also known as the Jarabulous border.
The United States, the European Union and the United Nations have all backed the SDC and SNC in their efforts to defeat ISIS, while Turkey has also sought to cooperate with the Kurds.
But Turkey has long rejected the YPG and SDC, which it considers a terrorist organization and has accused of using Turkey as a platform to conduct attacks against Turkey and its neighboring states.
Turkey, which sees the YPG as a terrorist group, has also imposed sanctions on the YPG.
The Syrian government, meanwhile, has accused Turkey of arming the YPG in its fight against ISIS.
The SDF alliance has also been accused of being linked to the PKK, which Ankara views as a front for the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and other rebel groups in Turkey.
On Monday, Turkey announced that the SDP and SPC would “form a unity government” that would form the “administration of self defense.”
The coalition is expected to sign an agreement on Friday.
The Rojava agreement is expected in the coming days to give the Kurds the power to determine their own future in the area, which includes the strategic town of Afrin, which was taken over by the YPG last year.