Despite calls for unity, Syrian Kurds remain divided

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Supporters of the PYD and TEV-DEM (R), and KNC supporters (L). File photo

ARA News 

Over 270 Syrian Kurdish journalists and activists signed the so-called Bremen Appeal to call for talks between the main Kurdish parties in Syria.

On Monday, TEV-DEM (Democratic Society Movement), an umbrella organization linked to the Democratic Union Party (PYD), released a statement welcoming the call for unity, and demanded the Kurdish National Council (KNC) to join its federal project and democratic self administration in Rojava.

However, the KNC, backed by Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), wants to return to the previous agreements signed in Erbil and Duhok. The KNC also demanded the immediate release of political prisoners arrested by the PYD-affiliated security forces in northern Syria.

The Kurdish National Alliance, which is part of the Rojava federal project, also welcomed the call for Kurdish unity.

“I also signed the appeal, and I think it’s a great effort in breaking the tensions between the Kurdish factions in Rojava [Syria’s Kurdish region], but I think we should not be optimistic,” Bader Mulla, an analyst for the Omran centre, told ARA News.

Mulla mentioned that there were negotiations between the Kurdish politicians linked to TEV-DEM with the Russians. “So they will not offer more political participation or less military control over the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] or YPG [People’s Protection Units],” he said.

“If we add to this the different regional alliances of the KNC and TEV-DEM, we are unlikely to see much steps forward,” he added.

“So far we’ve seen some pre-conditions from the TEV-DEM, with TEV-DEM asking to build on what has been created in Rojava. This while the KNC asks to go back to the Hewler [Erbil] and Duhok agreements. There is no chance that TEV-DEM will accept this, so unfortunately we are back to the starting point,” the Kurdish analyst told ARA News.

The KNC has so far rejected the federalism project of TEV-DEM and its allies, and will participate in the upcoming talks in Astana, from which the PYD and TEV-DEM were excluded due to opposition from Turkey.

Aldar Xelil, a senior official of the Democratic Society Movement (TEV-DEM), called on the KNC last September to return to Rojava to continue their struggle, but the KNC wants its imprisoned members to be released first.

In November, some KNC members were released after efforts by former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and former US diplomat Peter Galbraith in a visit to Syrian Kurdistan to repair relations between the KNC and the PYD.

However, in December relations between the two sides worsened again after a local pro-PYD youth group attacked a protest by the KNC in Qamishli.

Nevertheless, the recent release of Mohammed Ismail on Tuesday, a senior member of the KNC-linked Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria (KDP-S), could help to calm down tensions. He and several other KNC members were arrested on 15 August 2016 by the Asayish forces during a funeral of a Syrian Kurdish Peshmerga fighter that died in Iraqi Kurdistan.

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