Iraq Kurd leader voices backing for Syria Kurds

AFP , Saturday 28 Jan 2012

The President of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region Massud Barzai backs minority Kurds in Syria, while assuring his unwillingness to interfere in their 'affairs'

A Syrian boy with his face covered looks on during a protest against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Damascus suburb of Saqba January 27, 2012. (Photo:Reuters)

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani on Saturday backed minority Kurds in Syria, who have rallied against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad during 10 months of nationwide protests.

Barzani, the president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, was speaking at a two-day conference of Syrian Kurds in the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Arbil.

"We do not want to interfere in the affairs of Kurds in Syria, but we will help and support your decisions," he said.

"But on the condition that you remain united during this sensitive period, and that you avoid internal conflicts."

He continued: "The situation is important to us because it (Syria) is a neighbouring country, we have a long border with it, and more than two million Kurds live there. It is important to know their future."

More than 200 Syrian Kurds living in 25 countries took part in the conference, which will conclude on Sunday in Arbil.

Iraq's Kurdish region, comprised of three provinces in the north, enjoys broad autonomy under the country's 2005 constitution.

Syria's Kurdish community, meanwhile, is represented by a dozen squabbling political parties, all of them banned by authorities in Damascus.

Syrian Kurds have participated in demonstrations against Assad's rule, but a crackdown by the regime has been largely focused on the country's majority Sunni Arab community.

The United Nations said last month that more than 5,400 people had been killed in Syria since March last year.

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