Abdulhakim Bashar, in an interview with Iraqi Kurdistan's Rudaw newspaper, dismissed claims that the PYD has taken over government offices or territories in northern Syria, claiming that the PYD is viewed as the regime's partner.
He acknowledged that the PYD forces are patrolling cities in areas predominantly populated by ethnic Kurds but added that the fact that the Syrian regime surrendered its offices to the PYD without confrontation has harmed Kurdish interests in Syria and led to hostility between the Kurds and the Syrian revolutionaries.
Bashar categorically rejected reports that any cities in northern Syria are fully controlled by the PYD, saying that Syrian security forces have a presence in every Kurdish city.
Syrian Kurds gained control of several towns near the Turkish border in the past two weeks, apparently after Syrian forces were moved to more central areas to fight back opposition forces emboldened by an audacious attack two weeks ago that resulted in the deaths of four senior Syrian officials, including the country's defense minister.
A coalition of Kurdish groups, apparently dominated by the PKK-affiliated PYD, now controls the “liberated” areas and reports have said PKK flags have been raised at state buildings in the region.
Bashar said it is true that the PYD flag has been raised on top of government offices in northern Syria, but the regime can force them to leave if it wants. He added that the government offices are functioning without any problems. “They have not changed except that the PYD flag has been raised on their roofs,” he said.
The KNC president said he does not know about the exact number, but he knows that members of the PKK are in Syria.
Bashar said the Syrian Kurds are very disappointed in the PYD right now and that if the situation continues this way, it will endanger Kurdish unity. He said Kurds might join the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to protect themselves because people cannot put up with the PYD any longer.
He noted that what makes the PYD important in north Syria is their arms and that if the PYD disarmed, they wouldn't even be in fourth or fifth place when asked about its popularity among Syrian Kurds.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has himself confirmed the reports that PKK-linked groups are controlling the areas close to the Turkish border, vowing that Ankara will not tolerate any PKK-linked Kurdish presence there and will take any measures against it, including military ones.
Bashar said he does not think the Turkish army would be able to enter northern Syria easily and that the KNC would stand against such an attempt by Turkey.
He said he hopes the PYD acts responsibly because neither Turkey nor other regional countries would allow them to control northern Syria. “They must put Kurdish interests before their party's interests,” Bashar warned.
Turkey has launched countless cross-border operations into northern Iraq in recent years, causing tension with the region's Kurdish administration. Relations improved significantly after the Kurdish administration committed itself to helping Ankara's anti-terrorism efforts. However, this cooperation may be tested now that Syrian Kurds are becoming part of the wider picture.
Speaking about the relationship with Turkey, Bashar said they have met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, but the KNC has different views from Ankara.
He said Turkey claims that the Kurdish issue in Syria must be resolved in a similar way to the Turkish process, meaning that the Kurds should only participate in the government as heads of municipalities, members of Parliament and as ministers.
He said, however, that the KNC had told Turkey that that is not enough and that “we want Kurdish rights to be enshrined in the new constitution. We told them we want to follow the pattern of the Kurdistan Regional Government [KRG] [of northern Iraq] and it would be in their interests to have a good relationship with the Syrian Kurds.”
The Syrian Kurds, the PYD and the KNC gained control of Kurdish areas after they agreed to set aside their differences and act together at a meeting hosted by Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani in Arbil last month. Barzani's role again came to the forefront when he made it public earlier this week that a group of Syrian Kurds had been given military training in northern Iraq, an announcement that Erdoğan called “ugly.”
Erdoğan said last Thursday that Davutoğlu will tell the Kurdish leadership that this is what should be avoided. “Let's not allow feelings of trust to be hurt, but you should not let wrong steps be taken. Let's take steps together to right a wrong,” Erdoğan said to the Iraqi Kurdish leaders.
Davutoğlu met Barzani on Wednesday and told reporters that he expressed Turkey's concerns regarding the fate of the region. “The regional administration received our message,” Davutoğlu concluded, before going to the terawih prayer with Barzani in a sign of good relations.
The Turkish government sees the Syrian National Council (SNC), the main umbrella group of the Syrian opposition, as a legitimate representative of Syrian Kurdish interests.
Bashar was optimistic about the future of ties with the SNC, saying the SNC's position towards the Kurds will change for the better because its leader, Abdulbaset Sieda, an ethnic Kurd, has a "good understanding of the situation."
"We have a good relationship with the SNC," he said, adding that SNC officials are expected to visit the Kurdish region soon for talks.