Kurdish-Kurdish dialogue fails in “power-sharing” battle
Enab Baladi – Khaled al-Jeratli
The commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Mazloum Abdi, called for reactivating the Kurdish-Kurdish dialogue between the Kurdish political parties in Syria.
Abdi’s talk came during a speech he gave at a forum organized by the Rojava Center for Strategic Studies on the centenary of the Lausanne Agreement in the city of al-Hasakah, northern Syria.
Abdi’s talk about reactivating the dialogue, which has been suspended for more than a year, did not resonate in the Kurdish political circles, as it did before when it was repeated in the past years, as the Kurdish National Council, which is a party to the dialogue, did not comment on the statements.
Indicators of activating the dialogue track returned after a break since April 2022, when the local North Press agency spoke about attempts to revive the Kurdish-Kurdish dialogue prompted by the US State Department in Syria.
Abdi’s statements about the need for dialogue focused on the fact that the international powers previously agreed to “exclude the rights of the Kurds” during the signing of the Lausanne Treaty and to continue in this manner for a hundred years.
Abdi added, “Lausanne was not limited to excluding the rights of the Kurds, but rather targeted them with physical extermination, such as the use of chemical weapons, executions, and campaigns of political arrest, which are still continuing to this day.”
The leader of the SDF said that “the gains of the Kurds in the Kurdistan region of Iraq and Rojava must be protected so that (Lausanne) will not happen again.”
He also called for “convening a Kurdish conference without any conditions, and unifying the Kurdish discourse before the international community, because the Middle East is witnessing changes, and there is a real opportunity for the Kurds to obtain their rights.”
Abdi’s demands for dialogue, prompted by the fear of losing what the SDF has gained over the past years, were also repeated by the head of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), Ilham Ahmed, during her interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.
In answer to a question posed by the Saudi newspaper to Ahmed about her fears of a Turkish military operation, she said that fears are always present, especially with Turkey following the method of air attacks with drones and targeting the civil and military leaders of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).
At the same time, Ahmed did not hide the SDF’s relationship with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), under whose pretext Turkey is attacking the region. She said that the SDF’s relations with the PKK exist, along with a group of Kurdish parties in Iraqi Kurdistan and others in Iran, “within the framework of the interest of the Kurdish people as a whole.”
Abdi previously indicated, during his interview with Al-Monitor, that the SDF ended its military relations with the PKK, noting that the presence of its members in northeastern Syria ended with the end of the military operations against the Islamic State group in 2019.
He added that the Autonomous Administration wants peaceful relations with Turkey. “We have never attacked Turkey from within our borders… We have no hostile intentions towards Turkey, either now or in the future.”
Abdi said at the time, “We are not the PKK. We have no organic links to the PKK.”
Pursuit of gains
Abdi’s statements aimed at achieving political gains for the SDF with Western countries in light of the increasing Turkish pressure against its components (PYD and PKK), especially regarding Sweden’s accession to NATO, according to political researcher Samer al-Ahmad.
The researcher, who hails from al-Hasakah governorate, told Enab Baladi that Turkey is trying to achieve new gains in the NATO file, which may be reflected in a restriction on the activity of Kurdish parties in Europe during the coming period.
Al-Ahmad added that the political situation in the region has reached a “critical” situation, especially with talk about America’s investment in the Arab component in northeastern Syria, which pushes the SDF to try to open a new political door to strengthen relations with Western countries.
The Kurdish-Kurdish dialogue has previously failed after several negotiating rounds, whether under the auspices of the Iraqi Kurdistan region and its president, Masoud Barzani, or recently with American sponsorship, due to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) not accepting sharing tasks with the Kurdish National Council, which represents the opposite party in the Kurdish-Kurdish dialogue, according to the researcher.
Al-Ahmad said that the SDF’s refusal to share administrative, financial, and military power with the components of the Kurdish National Council still exists.
This prompts one to think that Abdi’s recent efforts on dialogue are “not serious,” especially with the clear differences today between the Kurdish components in Iraqi Kurdistan, as the Barzanis (people loyal to Masoud Barzani) are allied with the Kurdish National Council, while the Talabanis (people loyal to Pavel Talabani) lean towards the SDF.
In view of the impact of these disputes in Erbil, the Kurdish regional government in Iraq believes that the Democratic Union Forces (PYD) poses a threat to it, especially after the recurrence of security incidents in the region, according to al-Ahmad.
While the SDF accuses Erbil of cooperating with the Turks and Turkish intelligence in order to target its leaders who pass through the region.
The first Kurdish-Kurdish dialogue sessions, represented by two main poles, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Kurdish National Council and independents, began in November 2019 to end the differences.
While the US and European countries back the SDF, a key PKK ally, the opposite main party, the Kurdish National Council, receives support from Erbil and Turkey, and it is a member of the National Coalition of Syrian Opposition Forces.
The axes of the dialogue focus on the involvement of the National Council in managing the areas of influence of the SDF in northeastern Syria and allowing the involvement of its military wing, “Peshmerga Rojava,” in the security and military management of the areas of the Eastern Euphrates.
The dispute between the parties centers on the point of managing the region, as the SDF refuses to allow the National Council to engage in military, political, and security management and prefers to invest it alone.
“Difficult to apply” dialogue
During the dialogue file, the Kurdish National Council deals as the sole representative of the Kurds in Syria, as it defines itself as a Kurdish political entity, while the SDF wears a broader mantle, as it presents itself as representing other components such as Arabs, Kurds, Syriacs, and others.
The researcher at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies, Samer al-Ahmad, believes that the problem with continuing the dialogue is that the demands of the Kurdish National Council with the SDF are based on “sharing power and influence, and economic, administrative and political gains in the Syrian Jazira region, by talking to the PKK only while neglecting the rest of the components.”
Al-Ahmad told Enab Baladi that the new changes in the region impose other matters. Therefore, the Kurdish Council and the SDF may negotiate over Kurdish areas that are confined to towns and villages close to the Syrian-Turkish border strip, as its depth does not exceed ten kilometers, but the region itself includes broader components and cannot be limited to the Kurdish presence over which the two parties are competing.
Al-Ahmad added that in a previous stage, there was international reliance on the Kurdish component of the SDF completely, but today the issue of the other components in the region has drawn the attention of Western countries and Washington itself, and this appeared through the opening of new channels of dialogue with the tribal components in the region.
A year after its launch, the future of the Kurdish-Kurdish dialogue faces many challenges, according to a study prepared by the Jusoor Center for Studies titled “Changing Attitudes.”
The most important of which is on the military side, as the Kurdish National Council is demanding to allow the return of the “Rojava Peshmerga” to the Kurdish areas in Syria, in addition to allowing them to carry out their military work, in order for it to be a military force that protects the Council and its participation in the political and administrative process.
The Democratic Union (PYD) and SDF reject these demands and stipulate the integration of the “Peshmerga” into the SDF as individuals, as the SDF does not want a parallel military force in the region.
For its part, the Democratic Union proposes to postpone discussing the issue of the return of the “Peshmerga” until after the end of the dialogue and agreement on the rest of the points and suggests that the agreement and dialogue on this issue be between the SDF and the leaders of the “Peshmerga” directly.
The Kurdish parties that form the nucleus of the SDF in northeastern Syria are part of an alliance to which the Syrian regime is a party, and that includes an alliance with Iran as well, and there is another military alliance with the United States to fight the Islamic State group.
Given the different positions of the two sides of the dialogue and the different agendas that each of them stands on, their standing in two diverging alliances makes it difficult to reach an agreement between them, according to the study.
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