The New York Times reports: President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Thursday that his country’s more than five-month military operation in Syria had been a success, with the upper hand on the battlefield returned to the Syrian government and with President Bashar al-Assad ready to make the compromises necessary for a peaceful settlement.
As the Russian leader spoke, Kurdish leaders in northern Syria were putting the final touches on a plan that would unite territories controlled by Kurdish forces within an autonomus entity within a federated Syria.
The new entity is to be called the Democratic Federation of Rojava-North Syria, Kurdish leaders said at a news conference later in the day, and its structure and bylaws are to be hashed out by an executive council with 31 members, half of them female.
Anticipating criticism, a spokeswoman for the group, Hediye Yusif, said this was not intended as a first move toward the partition of the country. “We are against the division of Syria,” she said. “Federalism doesn’t mean partition. It’s the opposite; we see it as a positive step towards a democratic Syria for all.”
In Mr. Putin’s first extensive remarks on Syria since he ordered the bulk of Russian forces to return home on Monday night, he said that the Russian military would remain engaged in what he called the fight against terrorism, but added that it could return if needed.
“If necessary, literally within a few hours, Russia can build its contingent in the region to a size proportionate to the situation developing there,” Mr. Putin said.
Russian forces remain engaged in efforts to take back the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, Mr. Putin said, adding that he expected it to be liberated soon. The city was captured from government forces last May by the Islamic State, which has destroyed temples, triumphal arches and other landmarks. [Continue reading…]