External forces hindering Rojava unity talks: SDF commander

Karwan Faidhi Dri

Mazloum Abdi, commander-in-chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), gives a press conference in Hasaka, northeast Syria on October 24, 2019. Photo: AFP

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A+A-ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Talks between Kurdish opposition and ruling parties in northeast Syria are proving “difficult” due to interference by some “external forces”, top commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Mazloum Abdi said Friday.

In an interview with the pro-SDF Syrian Democratic Times news outlet, Commander-in-Chief Abdi said that the opposition Kurdish National Council (ENKS) and the ruling Democratic Union Party (PYD) have agreed to “adopt a common political vision” after the completion of the first stage of talks, but external forces have hindered the process.

“The process of Kurdish unity is a difficult one, given the interference of external forces in it and their negative impact, with these external forces having declared their opposition to Kurdish unity,” said the commander.

Though he did not elaborate on who these “external forces” are, Turkey’s 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.

The ENKS and PYD have been at odds for several years, with the former accusing the latter of being unwilling to share power in northeast Syria, an area known to Kurds as Rojava. 

The two sides began talks in Duhok in 2014, initiated by leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and then-President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani. Talks ended in a deal that was never implemented.

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 PYD’s delegation is accompanied by a group of other, allied Kurdish parties. All are gathered under the newly-established Kurdish Parties National Union umbrella group.  

Bristling comments from officials on both sides have also negatively impacted the talks, according to a member of the opposition delegation. 

ENKS leadership member Sulaiman Oso told Rudaw English last week that recent comments from PYD-led delegation head Aldar Xelil about refusal to share power with the ENKS had postponed the resumption of meetings.

“The comments from Aldar [Xelil] were bitter and a message attempting to end the talks. We contacted the Americans and the SDF to tell them that these comments do not serve the purpose of the talks,” said Oso.

Oso had previously told Rudaw English that they want a 50/50 share in running the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (NES), known by Kurds as Rojava.

However, Nasraddin Ibrahim, a member of the PYD-led delegation, told Rudaw English on Saturday that talks recommenced on Wednesday – but that resumptive meeting angered Ibrahim and other Kurdish Parties National Union members after the ENKS told them that they will from now on only meet with the PYD. 

“The ENKS delegation said that they would only meet with the PYD…We believe that all 25 parties [of the Alliance] must be involved in the talks,” Ibrahim said.

Rudaw English reached out to several ENKS officials for comment, but has yet to receive a response.