Syrian Kurdish leader says return of Rojava Peshmerga crucial to unity deal
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The head of the Kurdish National Council (KNC), Saud al-Mullah, says the return of the Rojava Peshmerga, a military force of about 5,000 Syrian Kurdish fighters who fought against the so-called Islamic State near Mosul, is crucial to any agreement with the Democratic Union Party (PYD).
“So far, the issue of [Roj] Peshmerga’s return [to Rojava] has not been discussed as we are moving forward step by step,” Mullah told Kurdistan 24 in a recent interview.
“The Peshmerga subject is a special one, and once the talks enter that stage, we will establish committees on military matters to discuss the return of Peshmerga to the homeland [to] defend their people,” he added. “This is a crucial focus for us – the Peshmerga must be present in Syrian Kurdistan [Rojava]; in Kurdish-populated areas, not the Arab regions.”
Nevertheless, he said there have been many positive steps. “We have reached agreements on many topics. However, we have said that all issues are connected to each other during such agreements – meaning that we will not sign any partial agreement. Moreover, we have to be deciding equally.”
In the past, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the PYD-affiliated People’s Protection Units (YPG) have refused the return of the Rojava Peshmerga, the military wing of the KNC, arguing a military division could lead to a Kurdish civil war, similar to the conflict between Kurdish parties in the 1990s in the Kurdistan Region.
However, the KNC argued that the Rojava Peshmerga, as a native Syrian Kurdish force, has the right to return to Syrian Kurdistan.
It is “a natural right for the Roj Peshmerga to return to their homeland,” Ibrahim Biro, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the KNC, told Kurdistan 24 last year.
The PYD and the KNC, the two major factions among Syrian Kurdish parties, renewed negotiations in early November in efforts to stand together as a united front after Turkey’s cross-border offensive in northern Syria in October 2019.
The KNC and the PYD-linked Kurdish National Unity Parties (PYNK) have previously held talks for at least seven months. But the discussions were temporarily halted due to the absence of American officials from Syria and the recent US elections.
“As you know, the intra-Kurdish dialogue is paused for some time, and the reason for that was the Americans who had to return to their country during the elections,” Democratic Left Party Secretary-General Salih Gheddo, a member of the leadership of the PYNK, told Kurdistan 24.
“I believe the dialogue will restart after Joe Biden’s inauguration. At this moment we are discussing ‘administrative’ subjects on how the KNC will participate as a partner in the Self-Administration,” Gheddo explained.
“We have already completed the ‘Kurdish Reference’ [Supreme Body] subject, and we hope that during the next phase of the talks we can reach an agreement on administrative roles and the KNC’s involvement.”
Tensions between the KNC and PYD increased following the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, with the latter playing a significant role in the establishment of the self-administration that has ruled northeastern Syria.
The parties have yet to successfully cooperate, even after agreements they reached at talks held in the neighboring Kurdistan Region’s Duhok and Erbil provinces from 2012 and 2014 with support from the Kurdistan Regional Government because the many provisions of the agreements were never effectively implemented.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany