Wednesday, 17 June, 2020 , 08:06 | Zhelwan Z. Wali 

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — After years of political wrangling, the main ruling and opposition parties in northeast Syria jointly announced Wednesday that they have reached a “common political vision” on governance and partnership.

The Kurdish National Unity Parties, a newly-established umbrella group jointly led by the now-ruling Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the opposition Kurdish National Council (ENKS), announced that agreement on a “binding common political vision” had reached “initial understandings” after concluding the first phase of negotiations for the unity of the Kurdish parties and governance in northeast Syria, known to Kurds as Rojava.

Speaking at a ceremony to announce the landmark deal, William Robak, the American deputy special envoy to Syria said: “on behalf of the US Government I want to commend both sides for the hard work they’ve done to reach the progress reached so far.”

The accord comes after months of quarrelous, sometimes bitter negotiations between the two parties who stand on nearly opposite sides of the Syrian conflict.

At one end of the Syrian Kurdish political spectrum is the PYD, which in 2014 seizing control of huge swathes of territory in hopes of establishing a self-governing Kurdish administration in Syria’s northeast.

On the other end is the ENKS, which had originally allied with PYD as part of a wider umbrella of Kurdish factions opposed to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, but fell out when ENKS accused the PYD of assassinating and jailing its members and running a one-party state in Rojava.

“You could say the PYD is anti-Erdogan, not anti-Assad; and ENKS is anti-Assad, not anti-Erdogan,” Rena Netjes, an associate fellow at the Hague-based Clingendael Institute told Rudaw English in an interview in May.

Power-sharing agreements between the groups were signed in 2014 in Iraqi Kurdistan Region city Duhok province, mediated by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which has close ties with the ENKS. At those talks, the parties reached a power-sharing compromise to allot 40 percent of seats each, with the remaining 20 percent for other parties. However, the agreements were never implemented.

“The Duhok Agreement acted as the basis of our understanding,” Bashar Amin, a member of the ENKS General Secretariat, told Rudaw Radio on Wednesday afternoon, adding that talks will continue until a final agreement on matters related to finance, administration and military is reached.

Though the accord did not lay out details or mechanisms for shared governance, ENKS leadership member Sulaiman Oso told Rudaw English in May that his party was seeking a 50/50 share in running the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (NES).

“These understandings constitute a first and important step, reached under the auspices and assistance of the US Deputy Special Envoy for the International Alliance, Ambassador William Robak and Commander in Chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) General Mazloum Abdi and [Nechirvan] Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq,” read the joint statement that was posted on both of the parties’ respective websites.

The first stage of this new round of talks was initiated by Abdi in October 2019, after Turkey launched a military operation against Kurdish forces in Rojava earlier that month.

The development in relation between the two sides comes after SDF commander Abdi announced over the weekend that unity talks were proving “difficult” due to interference by some “external forces” a veiled reference to Turkey, whose foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu voiced opposition to the talks in mid-May, saying that Ankara had been promised by the ENKS that such discussions would not be held, because of the PYD’s alleged links to Turkey’s nemesis to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has been at war with the Turkish state for decades.

The ENKS is a member of the Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, which is based in Turkey and has political backing from the Kurdistan Region, Turkey and Europe. Some have been banned from entering Rojava and have been jailed for their criticism of the PYD and alleged links to Turkey.

After being shuttered for years, the offices of the ENKS in PYD-controlled areas in Syria were reopened in early 2020 as the two sides began to warm ties.

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