Washington 'puts pressure on Syrian Kurds' to unite

Washington 'puts pressure on Syrian Kurds' to unite
5 min read
18 June, 2021
In-depth: Washington is backing Syrian-Kurdish attempts to cast aside divisions and form one unified political authority after years of political fragmentation and strife.

The US State Department is said to be pushing the parties of the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of Northeast Syria and the parties of the Kurdish National Council (KNC) to return to the negotiating table to form a single Syrian-Kurdish political authority to represent them as attempts are made to achieve a political solution to the Syrian issue.

Sources from the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) told The New Arab's Arabic edition (Al-Araby al-Jadeed) that those supervising the Syrian-Kurdish issue in the Biden administration are making efforts alongside the leader of the Democratic Syrian Forces (SDF), Mazloum Abdi, to prepare the political ground so that the Autonomous Administration parties (formerly known as the Kurdish National Unity parties) could come together with the leadership of the PYD and the KNC and work out a number of unresolved issues between them.

Discussions stopped at the end of the last year, despite several rounds of talks, because the PYD (which dominates the SDF through the Kurdish "People's Protection Units”) refused to cut ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) designated by US ally Turkey as a terror group.  

"It is believed that some supporters of the PKK in Northeast Syria have been behind attempts to derail attempts to unite different Kurdish groups by attacking KNC offices"

Meanwhile, the KNC was calling for changes to the “social contract.” This included cancelling forced conscription; allowing the “Syrian Peshmerga” to enter Northeast Syria; discussion of practical solutions to the educational situation such as guaranteeing students’ futures through providing recognised qualifications and improving Kurdish-language education provision, and deciding the fate of prisoners and missing persons.

It is believed that some supporters of the PKK in Northeast Syria have been behind attempts to derail attempts to unite different Kurdish groups by attacking KNC offices across the region east of the Euphrates River - a region controlled by SDF - and the KNC considers this a major obstacle in the way of discussions focussing on how to achieve results acceptable to both sides.

The PYD refuses to allow the “Syrian Peshmerga” (which includes Syrian Kurdish fighters) to enter the northeast of the country because it wants to retain full control of military and security decisions in this area.

These forces are concentrated in camps situated in Iraqi Kurdistan - a region considered to provide the main body of support to the KNC, which is demanding it should have an equal partnership with the PYD in the administration of the area east of the Euphrates. This area makes up a third of Syria’s surface area and contains the most valuable oil, water and agricultural resources in the country.

Finding common ground

The two biggest Kurdish political groups in Syria agreed on the Dohuk Agreement, which was ratified in the presence of the Iraqi Kurdistan leader in October 2014, and which will form the basis for these negotiations.

The agreement stipulated the forming of a Kurdish political authority, on the condition that 40% of the authority would be made up of representatives from the "Democratic Society Movement" (which later became the "Kurdish National Unity Parties" umbrella organisation which includes 25 parties), and the KNC would represent 40% of the authority, leaving 20% for representatives from parties and groups not affiliated to the two political bodies.

Faisal Yusuf, General Coordinator of the Kurdish Reform Movement, and member of the governing body for the KNC, confirmed to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the US was pushing the Kurdish sides to overcome the obstacles that have been blocking the negotiations over the past few months. He added: “the KNC believes that negotiations could be convened with American support and oversight, and Mazloum Abdi is ready to work on implementing whatever is agreed... but until now no date has been set for a renewal of the negotiations."

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It is likely that developments in Syria will pressure the Kurds into trying once more to form a unified political authority to represent them as political solutions to the Syrian issue are explored.

The Kurds receive political and military support from the states that are part of the global coalition against terrorism, especially the United States and France (which recently received a delegation of representatives from the Autonomous Administration in Northeast Syria). Another recent development concerns Turkey’s request to widen the area of the "safe zone" to the east of the Euphrates - if Washington agrees, then this would reduce Kurdish influence in the area drastically.

Two Kurdish-Syrian parties – the Democratic Unity Party (Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat‎) and Free Kurdistan Party (Partiya Jiyana Azad a Kurdistanê) announced their unification two days ago.

The secretary of the new party, Abdusamad Biro, stated in a conversation with Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that "this unification is responding to the will of the people, after the fragmentation between Syrian Kurds since 2011," adding that the Syrian regime and the opposition had both worked to sow division among Kurds in order to minimise their ability to make demands in dialogues with them.

"Turkey’s request to widen the area of the 'safe zone' to the east of the Euphrates - if Washington agrees, then this would reduce Kurdish influence in the area drastically"

He indicated that the coming stage would require powerful Kurdish parties capable of defending the just Kurdish cause, adding, our hand is outstretched to all, and we hope the Kurdish movement will be able to form an integrated and unified front because the political scene doesn’t allow for this many parties."

Biro situated the new party within those affiliated to the KNC and said that Kurds are calling for Syrian unity and a secular, parliamentary, federal state, which will grant them their rights through a modern constitution.

With regards to the Autonomous Administration and the KNC, Biro said that an advanced stage in discussions had been reached, adding that Washington was not only overseeing the discussions but that its involvement had become a key component to their success. He pointed out that Washington was serious about achieving Kurdish unity in Syria but explained that the talks must only be between the Kurds of Syria.

"We will not accept any foreign interference in the course of this dialogue, and that includes the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)."

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original click here.