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| 14 August, 2018

Syrian Kurdish-led council visits Damascus for newtalks - report

A delegation including members of the U.S.-backed SDF, which controls roughly a quarter of Syria, held talks with Damascus earlier this month

SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel speaks during a news conference in Ain Issa, Syria, January 22, 2018.

SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel speaks during a news conference in Ain Issa, Syria, January 22, 2018.

REUTERS/Rodi Said

BEIRUT - The political wing of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has been to Damascus for a second round of talks with the state, the pro-government al-Watannewspaper said on Tuesday.

A delegation including members of the U.S.-backed SDF, which controls roughly a quarter of Syria, held talks with Damascus earlier this month, their first declared visit to the capital.

The visits highlight efforts by the Kurdish-led authorities to open new channels to President Bashar al-Assad's government, as they seek to negotiate a political deal that keeps their autonomy within Syria.

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The SDF is spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, which has mostly avoided conflict with Assad and says its aim has been to secure Kurdish rights rather than topple the government.

This has set them apart from rebel factions fighting to topple Assad since 2011, which have now been defeated in much of the territory they once held.

The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) went for new talks on local administation and decentralization, al-Watan cited its co-chair Riad Darar as saying on Tuesday.

"All the discussions happening now are ... to find out the other side's point of view," he said. Thetalks "need a lot of reflection to make decisions, and so the matter was left to other meetings".

Such negotiations could raise new questions for U.S. policy in Syria, where the U.S. military has deployed into SDF territory during the battle against Islamic State.

The SDF seized swathes of land with U.S. help, though Washington opposes their aim of regional autonomy. The region they control spreads across much of northern and eastern Syria, rich in farmland, oil, and water.

Damascus says the U.S. forces are occupiers. For the first time, Assad said in May that he was "opening doors" for talks with the SDF, but also threatened force and said the Americans would leave one way or another.

(Reporting by Ellen Francis; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

© Reuters News 2018