MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : SYRIA/KURDISTAN –  Rojava opposition leader accuses the PKK of harming Kurdish unity talks  – 

8 hours ago 9 Jan 2021 – Karwan Faidhi Dri – RUDAW –  ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — A leadership member of the opposition umbrella group Kurdish National Council (ENKS) accused the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) of being the de-facto ruler of northeast Syria’s autonomous region (Rojava), adding that the group has harmed Kurdish unity talks.

Sulaiman Oso, a member of ENKS’ leadership council told Rudaw’s Omar Kalo in an interview on December 23 that the PKK governs Rojava “on the ground,” blaming the group for the loss of territory.

“The presence of the PKK here has led to the loss of many areas, including Afrin, Sari Kani [Ras al-Ain] and Gire Spi [Tal Abyad],” he said in the interview published on Friday.

Turkey has carried out three military operations in coordination with its Syrian proxies against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria since 2016. They attempt to justify the attacks by claiming that the SDF’s backbone, the People’s Protection Units’ (YPG), presence in Syria is a threat to their national security.

Turkey considers the YPG the Syrian offshoot of the PKK – an armed group struggling for the increased cultural and political rights of Kurds within Turkey.

Rojava’s ruling Democratic Union Party (PYD), the YPG’s political arm, and the ENKS have had thorny relations for years. They began unity talks in 2014 in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s Duhok province, and reached an agreement but it was never implemented.

The groups resumed talks in late 2019. However, talks have been stalled for months, reportedly due to changes in the positions of US officials in Syria who supervise talks.

“Americans, who supervise the [intra-Kurdish] talks, also speak with Turkey, telling them that they want the Syrian Kurds to reach an agreement. However, in the midst of the talks, you see children being abducted, you see PKK flags and slogans on the streets of Rojava’s cities,” Oso told Rudaw, referring to alleged child recruitment by various armed groups in the autonomous territory.

“This is a negative message which tells the world that we are the PKK rather than Syrian Kurds. We want to convey the opposite message. We say that we, as Syrian Kurds, want to reach an agreement to jointly govern our region,” he added.

The ENKS is also a member of the Turkey-backed Syrian opposition and has enjoyed good relations with Ankara. Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has warned the ENKS not to make deals with the PYD.

“I told them that they should not make deals with the PKK/YPG. We used to have talks with and support them [ENKS],” he said during an interview with a Turkish broadcaster in May.

The ENKS leadership member demanded that the PKK return to Turkey, claiming that the PKK is justifying Turkey’s attacks on Rojava.

“Each part of the [greater] Kurdistan has its own status which should be respected. We as the people of Syrian Kurdistan say that our status should be respected,” said Oso.

The presence of the PKK in Rojava has been confirmed by Mazloum Abdi, commander in chief of the SDF.

He spoke to researchers from the International Crisis Group in mid-September for a report published late November, and acknowledged the sacrifices that thousands of PKK fighters have made in the area since 2011, but noted that the group’s presence is a headache for his administration.

A number of PKK-trained individuals, some accused of having maintained ties to the group, occupy senior positions in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (NES), according to the report.

“Through US mediation and as part of our talks with the other Kurdish groups … we agreed to gradually pull out all these non-Syrian cadres from their current positions, and ultimately from Syria,” Abdi told Crisis Group researchers, adding that there “no real need” for the presence of PKK in Rojava.

Abdi had fought the Turkish state as a PKK fighter for over three decades before establishing the SDF.