Qamishli (Syria) (AFP) – British members of parliament from the opposition Labour party visited northern Syria Wednesday to express solidarity with the region’s embattled Kurdish minority.
Their visit came at a time when Kurdish-controlled areas faced the threat of military operations by neighbouring Turkey and its Syrian Arab proxies.
“We’re here for a long-term relationship with you, where we can support you against all the people who are trying to destroy your liberty and your democracy,” said Maurice Glasman, from the House of Lords, or upper house of parliament.
“We also bring with a full heart our solidarity with you,” he said at a press conference held late Tuesday in Qamishli, a city in northeastern Syria’s Kurdish heartland.
Turkey and its allies last month wrested the area of Afrin from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) — the Kurdish militia that controlled it.
Ankara has threatened to advance deeper into Syria, to cripple a group it considers a terrorist organisation and to create a buffer along its border, which millions of refugees have crossed in the seven-year-old conflict.
The British delegation also includes MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle and on Wednesday was due to visit Kobane, a town on the border that Kurdish forces retook from jihadists in 2015.
The YPG has been a key player in military operations against the Islamic State group in Syria, spearheading ground offensives backed by the US-led coalition.
With the IS “caliphate” now in tatters, rivalries have resurfaced in Syria, where the Kurds are seeing their autonomous statelet come under attack and are obtaining few concessions from Damascus or Turkey.
Many Kurds have also felt abandoned by the West, arguing they were being poorly rewarded for agreeing to wage deadly battles against IS that the US and its allies mostly backed from the air.