“KURDS ARE DIVIDED IN SYRIA” : Opposition Official: Syrian Kurds Should Resolve Differences & Join Interim Government

By DILXWAZ BAHLAWI – RUDAW – 20.4.2013 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Syrian Kurds appear too divided to join an opposition transitional government, a senior official of the Syrian National Council (SNC) said, admitting also that his own group lacked a clear plan to resolve the country’s Kurdish issue after the fall of the Damascus regime.

The SNC “does not have a clear political plan for the new Syria and solving the Kurdish issue in that country,” said Abdulbaset Sieda, former head of the SNC, and now its foreign affairs chief. “Unfortunately, Kurds are divided in Syria,” said Sieda, speaking in a phone interview from the Turkish capital Ankara, where the Syrian opposition discussed the formation of a transitional government. “They need to organize themselves better in order to take part in building the new Syria,” he said, adding that the opposition is trying to make the Kurds partners in the transitional government. “They should not increase their demands, because their policy of ‘all or nothing’ is not a good policy,” Sieda advised.

The Kurdish National Council (KNC), an umbrella grouping of the main Kurdish parties, excludes the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian branch of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The SNC announced from Ankara last month the formation of a National Coalition, or transitional Syrian government, with ethnic Kurd Ghassan Hitto appointed as president.

“Discussions are continuous for forming this transitional government.  All the aspects of this transitional government such as the methods of selecting the ministers, the importance of forming ties with all the groups of the National Coalition outside Syria, especially the Kurdish National Council are being discussed,” said Sieda. He added that Hitto had been asked to contact Syria’s Kurdish parties to select ministers to represent the Kurds in the interim administration.  “Hitto has positively responded to this request, and stressed the importance of the Kurdish role in that government,” Sieda said. The (KNC) and People’s Council of West Kurdistan, the other large Kurdish opposition, have been asked to join the SNC several times, but they have proposed pre-conditions for joining.

Sieda said that both sides share the blame for not having reached an agreement over the Kurdish role in the National Coalition.

Sieda said he believed it is in the interest of Syria’s Kurds to join the National Coalition. “If 70 percent of the Kurdish demands were to be met by joining the SNC, then it would be possible to meet the other 30 percent of their demands in the future,” said Sieda.

Sieda said that, even without partnership in the SNC, the Kurds can still be part of the transitional government. “Surely, the Kurds will take part in this government. The prime minister has also stressed on the participation of the Kurds in his government,” said Sieda. Sieda said he feared the Kurds might not join due to existing internal divisions among them. “If all the Kurdish parties demand to have their own minister in the government, then we will face arguments and not reach any decisions,” he said.

“The government of Hitto might be formed before the Kurds could conclude their internal arguments about who should represent them. We, as Kurds, should not repeat the same mistake, we should join the transitional government of Syria,” Sieda advised.

Meanwhile, in a move to placate Syrian Kurdish groups, Assad regime has announced a decision to turn the Kurdish city of Qamishli into a governorate. Sieda said that the Kurds have been demanding this for years, and that it was the city’s right to be named a governorate. But he also advised caution.  “When an illegitimate government issues this order, then without a doubt it is meant to create division among the Kurds and Arabs of Syria,” said Sieda.

Sieda also said that the National Coalition has decided on the country’s new name as “The Republic of Syria,” a change from the “The Arab Republic of Syria,” which was used at the recent Arab League Summit. “We have discussed this issue many times among the apposition groups, and agreed to use ‘The Republic of Syria’ without the ‘Arab’ word, because Kurds and Armenians live in Syria as well. We will not name our country as the ‘Islamic Republic of Syria,’ because Christians live in Syria as well. These matters are political issues and should be settled legally,” Sieda said.