Since the ongoing talks between PKK-leader Abdullah Öcalan and the Turkish state most experts have focused on the statements of the PKK and the AKP to assess the peace process and a possible solution to the Kurdish problem in Turkey. But it might be better to look to Syria and the PYD after the events in Aleppo and Qamishli to see if there is a strategic shift in PKK policies.
I am not a fan of conspiracy theories, but the recent fighting in which the YPG claimed to have killed 40 Syrian soldiers and the continuous bombing of the PYD-controlled districts of Sheikh Maqsoud and Ashrafiya in Aleppo since 29 March and the killing of 3 YPG fighters by Syrian soldiers in Qamishli could be a sign the Imrali-process (the talks between the PKK and Turkey) is affecting the neutrality of the PKK in Syria and the Assad government is trying to punish the PYD. Although it did not lead to a major conflict in Qamishli yet and there was fighting in the areas before.
In his latest interview, the Syrian president Assad did not talk about the agreement between the FSA and the PYD, but did say Erdogan could not be trusted in order to undermine the peace process. While in the past he indirectly praised the PYD for the fight against the FSA in Ras al-Ain. This time he did not have any praises for the PYD and indirectly referred to them as a small separatist group with no support of the Kurds.
Both the PKK-leader Öcalan and PKK’s acting commandant Murat Karayilan referred to the 1920 National Pact and a new ‘Turkish-Kurdish alliance’, which could mean a shift of PKK against Syria instead of Turkey, as claimed by Turkish columnists Cihan Celik and Emre Ulsu, with Öcalan playing the role of Idris Bitlisi in a new Kurdish-Turkish alliance with Erdogan as a new sultan if manages to become the next president.
The PYD still denies any cooperation with the FSA even after the agreement between the Free Syrian Army and the YPG on 17 February in the disputed city of Ras al-Ain (Serê Kaniyê). But video footage from Youtube and reports from the New York Times and a Dutch journalist indicates there was cooperation with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Aleppo and the PYD.
Moreover, the PYD recently opened two People’s Houses in the FSA-controlled areas of Tal Abayd and Jarabulus, which in the past would be unthinkable since these towns were used by the FSA for their reinforcements when they fought with the YPG in Ras al-Ain before February.
Despite the fact that both the PYD, PKK and the YPG keep talking about a neutral third way (not supporting Assad nor the Syrian opposition), Salih Muslim admitted in an interview that a successful peace process could change relations between the PYD and the Syrian opposition. Efforts earlier by former Syrian opposition head Moaz al-Khatib to meditate between Turkey and the PYD failed, because Turkey wanted the PYD to take an active stance against Assad.
The recent takeover the strategic area of Sheikh Maqsoud in Aleppo by both the FSA and the YPG could be the active step Turkey have wanted for negotiations. The upcoming months will show if the Imrali process will further improve relations between the PYD and the Syrian opposition or not. A successful peace process in Turkey could thus have major implications for Syria.