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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Rival Kurdish groups in Syria reach breakthrough agreement

They pledged to continue talks "with the aim of signing a comprehensive agreement" [Gett]

Date of publication: 17 June, 2020

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On Tuesday, representatives of the KNC and a PYD-led coalition of Kurdish parties "concluded the first stage of Kurdish unity negotiations and reached a binding and unified political vision."

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Rival Kurdish groups in Syria have reached a breakthrough agreement on a joint political vision following a series of US-backed talks that aim to achieve Kurdish unity, a statement said Wednesday.

The Kurdish National Council (KNC) -- a member of the Turkey-backed Syrian opposition National Coalition -- is a main rival of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which dominates a Kurdish-majority region in Syria's northeast.

On Tuesday, representatives of the KNC and a PYD-led coalition of Kurdish parties "concluded the first stage of Kurdish unity negotiations and reached a binding and unified political vision", said a statement signed by both sides.

They pledged to continue talks "with the aim of signing a comprehensive agreement in the near future", the statement added.

The PYD's political and military dominance had led to accusations from the KNC that it was consolidating power and marginalising other Kurdish groups.

In 2017, the PYD-led Kurdish administration shuttered the offices of opposition parties, including the KNC, which called the move a political purge.

Their offices were reopened three months ago, and with the support of the US -- which backed Kurdish-led forces in the fight against the Islamic State group in northeastern Syria -- they entered into reconciliation negotiations with the PYD in recent months.

Senior KNC official Mohammad Ismail said the latest negotiations in part aim to "form a joint administration that manages political and military affairs" as well as establish a unified stance on various issues, including diplomacy.

The negotiations come ahead of an upcoming round of UN talks in Geneva on the Syrian war set for late August.

Turkey -- a key player in the conflict -- deems the PYD a terror organisation and its animosity towards it and other Kurdish groups has played a role in their exclusion from the Geneva talks and the parallel Russian-backed Astana process.

The KNC enjoys warmer ties with Turkey and has attended UN talks in the past.

"For the PYD, achieving a unity deal with the KNC is the ticket to the Geneva talks," said Nicholas Heras of the Institute for the Study of War.

A thaw in frosty intra-Kurdish ties is a goal for the US as well, Heras added, because Washington "needs Syrian Kurdish unity... to maintain stability in northeast Syria that supports an indefinite US presence in the country."

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