Under SDF rule, Raqqah can’t be called liberated: Syria

A Syrian minister says no land is considered liberated in the country unless national army forces regain control of it and raise the Syrian flag atop its buildings.

“We do not consider any city liberated until the Syrian Arab army enters it and lifts the Syrian flag over it. This applies to any point of the Syrian map,” Information Minister Mohammad Ramez Tardjaman told Russia’s Sputnik news agency in an interview published on Monday.

Earlier this month, the so-called Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed coalition of mainly Kurdish militants, captured the city of Raqqah from the Daesh terror group following a military operation, which was launched in July without the central government’s approval.

US President Donald Trump, whose country has been leading a bombing campaign in Syria since 2014, claimed that the city’s “liberation” was a result of the purported changes that he had brought to the US military’s strategy.

Tardjaman described the withdrawal of Daesh from its former Syrian base as a “positive event,” but emphasized that the city was not yet liberated.

“Regardless of whether Daesh is there or some other faction or organization,” the Syrian army needs to enter and retake control of Raqqah in order for the city to be called free.

He also denounced any unauthorized “local compromises, truces, and establishment of de-escalation areas” by forces controlling Raqqah.

“The Syrian administration will never bow down to compromises that violate Syria’s national unity and sovereignty,” he asserted.

Some, he said, wrongfully assumed that such arrangements, which do not have Damascus’ approval, could lead to “federalism, confederalism, or autonomy.”

He also lambasted “factitious demarcations, such as ‘east Euphrates and west Euphrates,’ which the US and its allies have been promoting.”

The Syrian government does not accord any importance to these terms and delineations, and will never recognize them, the minister stated.

He was apparently reacting to an October 20 statement by the SDF, in which it announced the “liberation” of Raqqah and said the city will be part of a system of “federal government” in the country’s north.

The Syrian military has not so far engaged the SDF, which has reportedly shelled the positions of government troops on several occasions in recent weeks.