FSA-PYD Tensions Could Escalate

17/11/2012 RUDAW –  By WLADIMIR van WILGENBURG – Between Oct. 26 and Nov. 2, there were clashes between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the PKK-affiliated Democratic Union Party (PYD) in the Kurdish Ashrafiyeh district of Aleppo and rural areas surrounding the city. Previously, FSA fighters fled to Ashrafiyeh with the approval of the PYD, and PYD members crossed FSA checkpoints without any problems. But the PYD did not appreciate the entrance of hundreds of fighters into Ashrafiyeh to attack Syrian security posts.

Especially since this led to shelling by the regime and resulted in the deaths of dozens of civilians in PYD-controlled areas. This sparked the clashes between the FSA and PYD. According to the truce established in Aleppo, the FSA would not enter Kurdish areas and the PYD would leave the FSA alone. But now the FSA is extending its control over Kurdish areas, and an FSA colonel has suggested their aim is to “free all of Hasaka.”The recent takeover of Ras al-Ayn (Sere Kaniye) in the Hasaka governorate by the FSA could result in further tension between the FSA and PYD.

On Nov. 8, FSA’s Ghurabaa’ Al-Sham took over Ras al-Ayn, an area the PYD controlled in the past.

In statements, the PYD blamed Turkey for “bringing war to the Kurdish area,” and added that the Kurdish people would confront any armed force inside their areas. However, this has yet to lead to more fighting. After this incident, the PYD removed the last remaining Syrian security forces in at least five towns to prevent the FSA from attacking these areas. The tensions between the FSA and PYD have also led to tensions with the Kurdish National Council (KNC). The PYD has accused some elements of the KNC of working with the FSA, and KNC parties have on occasion accused the PYD of working with the Assad government.

Moreover, the KNC claims the PYD attacked its parties for using the Syrian independence flag and shot at protestors, leading to the death of Welat Hessi in Kobane. The PYD denies being involved in both of these incidents. If they want to stop the tensions and the violence, the FSA, PYD and KNC should engage in tripartite negotiations, as well as launch talks with pro-Assad Arab tribes in Kurdish dominated-districts.  Earlier negotiations between the PYD and FSA over Aleppo city and rural areas managed to stop violence between them, and the PYD has more cause to negotiate now with worries about the FSA trying to enter Hasaka.

Fights between the different political groups would benefit the Assad government and slow down the attempts of the FSA to take over Damascus or Aleppo.  However, the fact there has been no fighting in Ras al-Ayn between the FSA and the PYD is a good sign. But this might not last forever if the FSA tries to takeover more Kurdish-dominated districts in Hasaka. Calls for an emergency meeting by the PYD in Qamishli and by Kurdistan’s President Massoud Barzani in Erbil on Friday are good signs. But sadly, the KNC did not participate in the PYD meeting, and it is unclear if the PYD would participate in the meeting in Erbil.Meetings should be held to prevent more tensions, but due to different political alliances and interests the implementation of agreements between the groups seems unlikely and tensions, along with more fighting, might continue in the near future.