Middle East

Syrian Kurds in talks to join forces

Residents and Free Syrian Army fighters pose near a tank after the fighters said they fought and defeated government troops from the town of Ras al-Ain, near the province of Hasaka, 600 km (375 miles) from Damascus, November 22, 2012. (REUTERS/Samer Abdullah/Shaam News Network/HO)

BEIRUT: Two rival Kurdish groups are in talks aimed at forming a joint force in a standoff with hundreds of Islamist rebels in northeastern Syria, Kurdish representatives said Friday.

Hundreds of fighters loyal to the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) – which has close ties to Turkey’s rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – have been locked in fierce battles with fighters of the jihadist Al-Nusra Front and allied Ghuraba al-Sham group in Ras al-Ain on the Syrian border with Turkey.

An agreement would set the stage for an expanded conflict in the area between Islamist rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad and Syrian Kurdish forces.

“We initially agreed on forming these [joint] forces that do not belong to any side, and discussions are ongoing now” in Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, Mohammad Rasho, a representative of the People’s Council of Western Kurdistan told AFP.

Abdul Salam Ahmad, another leader with the People’s Council of Western Kurdistan, said talks had agreed on the formation of a joint military unit called the “Kurdish Army” that will be open to any Kurdish volunteer and not affiliated with any particular party. PYD’s main militia will act as the foundation of the new group.

But others involved in the talks suggested the agreement was far from being finalized. Mustafa Juma’a, the general secretary of the Kurdish Azadi Party and a member of the Kurdish National Council, said any agreement will be difficult to implement.

“The PYD still just want to take control of all the Kurdish territories in Syria,” Juma’a said.

Friday’s talks came a day after the Ghuraba al-Sham brigade called for – in a video posted on the Internet – Islamist volunteers to flock to Ras al-Ain for a drive on the majority Kurdish city of Hassakeh.

“We of the Ghuraba al-Sham battalion call on the Free Syrian Army and the mujahedeen to advance toward Ras al-Ain,” an unidentified rebel commander said in the footage.

“We warn all those who stand in the way of this revolt ... especially the PYD, the PKK, and any other armed group, against taking any action that contradicts the path of the revolution,” he added. - With AFP.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 24, 2012, on page 10.




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