An Iraqi Kurdish official said on Wednesday that Turkey should engage with all of the Kurdish groups in Syria, including the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) branch based in northern Syria.
“The concern that Turkey has with the PYD and other Kurdish groups in the area is something that Turkey should approach, not push away,” Safin Dizayee, a senior member of Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), said in an interview with Today’s Zaman, noting that Turkey should not neglect any Kurdish groups in northern Syria.
Turkey has threatened military intervention in Syria if PKK-linked groups establish control over northern Syria, thus posing a security threat to Turkey. The PYD is part of an alliance recently formed in northern Syria, thanks to mediation efforts by Barzani. The alliance, known as the Supreme Kurdish Council, began running Kurdish cities along the Turkish-Syrian border last month, after Syrian forces withdrew from the region amid intensified fighting with Syrian opposition groups in more central parts of the country, including Aleppo and the capital of Damascus.
Dizayee dismissed claims that the PYD is dominating other Kurdish groups in Syria due to its military superiority, maintaining that the group is only trying to fill a security and political vacuum in northern Syria, abandoned by the Syrian forces. “Some people have to keep law and order. The PYD and others were available to do that, for daily security,” Dizayee said.
He claimed that the current position of the PYD in the region resembles that of the parties in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1991, when a power vacuum in northern Iraq that emerged after the withdrawal of Saddam Hussein’s forces during the Gulf War was filled by Kurdish parties. That process later led to the establishment of an autonomous Kurdistan administration in Iraq in 1992.
Dizayee’s remarks came as Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu headed for northern Iraq to meet with Kurdish leader Barzani for talks focusing on the PYD presence in northern Syria. Ahead of Davutoğlu’s visit, Barzani invited Abdulbaset Sieda, the leader of the main Syrian opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), for talks in Arbil. Also invited to the talks were representatives from the Kurdish groups based in Syria: the People’s Council of Western Kurdistan (PCWK), which also includes the PYD, and the Kurdish National Council (KNC) of Syria -- two Kurdish forces that do not answer to the SNC.
Criticizing the SNC for having no clear agenda or policy on the Kurdish issue in Syria, Dizayee asserted that this deficiency has made Kurdish groups reluctant to join the SNC ranks.
The KDP official also said he did not expect relations between Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to deteriorate due to developments in northern Syria. “The dark chapter between the KRG and Ankara has been closed since 2008. Since then we have been able to develop very constructive and positive relations, and we will continue to maintain that,” Dizayee said.
Stating that Kurds have suffered from state atrocities, Arabization and deportation under the 50-year Baath regime, Dizayee said that it is a high time Kurds accessed their rights through democratic and peaceful means.
Responding to speculation over the establishment of an autonomous or independent Kurdish region in northern Syria, Dizayee maintained that this is a decision that should be left to the people of the country. “So long as it is acceptable to every party, you have to leave this decision to the people of that country,” he said.
The KNC and the PYD of the new Supreme Kurdish Council do not exactly see eye to eye on a potential Syrian Kurdish administration. While the KNC seeks a federalist or politically decentralized, but united, Syria, the PYD seeks as its final goal a confederation with Iraqi Kurdistan.