US ready to facilitate return to contentious Syrian Kurdish dialogue: Envoy
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - The US deputy Special Envoy to Syria told Kurdistan 24 on Monday in an exclusive interview that the US is ready to facilitate a return to stalled intra-Kurdish dialogue between Syrian Kurdish parties long at odds with one another.
David Brownstein underlined that the US is ready to “facilitate the return to the negotiations with both sides and we remain committed to helping facilitate equitable solutions so they can move forward with a unified voice on the governance, economic, and development issues that are needed to ensure stability and a better future.”
Brownstein replaced Ambassador William Roebuck in November 2020 and is now the most senior US diplomat in northeastern Syria.
The PYD (Democratic Union Party) and the KNC (Kurdish National Council), the two major factions among Syrian Kurdish parties, renewed negotiations in November 2019 with the support of the United States and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) also support the talks.
The dialogue broke down in October 2020, but resumed with US backing in February.
So far, the Kurdish National Unity Parties (factions allied to the PYD), and the KNC have held separate meetings with the US, but the failure of both sides to put their differences aside long enough to even sit down together continues.
“We've had productive individual meetings with both sides in which we've heard the positions of both sides,” Brownstein continued. “We are working toward resolving these issues so we can return to joint meetings and sit at the table. ”
He also added that “recent articles attributing statements about the [Kurdish] dialogue to me were not accurate. The author and site has retracted the article and issued an apology.”
Earlier, amid the suspended talks, tensions between the parties played out in dueling media statements, notably escalating after a senior PYD official in January harshly criticized the KNC-affiliated Rojava Peshmerga forces, suggesting they should not be permitted to return to northern Syria.
This led to an angry response among KNC officials, who argued that it would be necessary for them to return in order to complete any Kurdish unity agreement in the city of Qamishli, known as Qamishlo in Kurdish.
Commander-in-Chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Mazloum Abdi told the Syrian Kurdish Hawar News Agency (ANHA) on Sunday that the issue of the return of Rojava Peshmerga forces should be resolved through the framework of the Duhok Agreement.
“The statements and accusations in the media on many issues between the two interlocutors created a negative atmosphere,” he said, arguing that the return of the Peshmerga was already settled and would be finalized “within the framework of the Duhok Agreement.”
Abdi called on both sides “to show a spirit of responsibility and highlight it, and return to the negotiating table to continue the discussion on the remaining points of contention face to face and not through the media,” he concluded.
Also in June 2020, the two Kurdish blocs said the talks would continue based on an agreement they arrived at in the Kurdistan Region’s Duhok province in 2014.
Brownstein told Kurdistan 24 that both Syrian Kurdish sides should this time discuss their differences at the table rather than in the media.
“We remain committed to discuss the previously agreed points during the earlier iterations of the Kurdish dialogue. We continue to debate issues, and discuss issues and negotiate at the table, and not in the media through exchange of statements,” he said.
“We encourage both sides to focus on the future and move past political posturing, with a goal of advancing political processes that support the eventual unification of Syria under just and equitable terms. Disagreements during a negotiation are natural, that is why we have negotiations. Let’s address them at the table and find solutions.”
Commander Abdi of the SDF also told ANHA that the Kurdish talks are part of “a more comprehensive process, which is the Syrian-Syrian dialogue as a whole, and it cannot be separated from it.”
Editing by John J. Catherine