Syrian Rebels and Kurdish Group Sign Truce

ERBIL, IRAQ RUDAW – 6.11.2012 – Wladimir van Wilgenburg –  Leaders of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and People’s Defense Units (YPG) say that both groups have reached an agreement on cooperation against the regime of Bashar Assad.

Fares Abu Ali, a spokesperson of the Salahddin Battalion, told Rudaw that he thinks the agreement is the “best way to stop the violence [between the PYD and the FSA].”

This agreement comes after some fierce clashes between FSA rebels and members of the YPG in the districts of Ashrafiya, in Aleppo on October 26, when FSA rebels entered the area and brought in heavy shelling by the Syrian forces. A statement by the YPG condemned the incident in Aleppo, saying that these events do not serve the Syrian revolution: “We see these events against the Syrian revolution, because YPG and the free army are struggling against the Syrian regime.”

Sipan Hamo, a member of the YPG leadership said in an interview with the Kurdish Ronahi TV that the Salahdin Battalion of Syrian Kurds were responsible for opening fire on Kurdish civilians on 26 October, and claimed the Kurdish Freedom Party lead by Mustafa Cumma has a relationship with them.

The YPG claimed that 7 of the 19 men killed in the clashes with the FSA were Kurds. Furthermore, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), seen as an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), organized demonstrations in Efrin calling for the revival of Aleppo resistance with slogans against the FSA that read, “No to the Free Army, No to the Syrian army, Long Live Kurdish Resistance.”

Fares Abu Ali, of the Salahaddin Battalion, told Rudaw that his group of 50-100 members was not involved in the Ashrafiya incidents. “We do not want war with the PKK or any other party in the Kurdish area. We do not have a connection with any Kurdish party and just fight against Assad. Some people in Ashrafiya wanted Arabs and Kurds to fight each other, but we aren’t there. We are helping now to calm down this situation.”

Bader Mustafa, a member of the Kurdish Youth Movement (TCK), told Rudaw that both sides need the agreement and need to solve their differences “Since both of them are not in need of opening a new front of fighting, since there still is the dictatorship regime, which is an enemy for both.” The agreement was announced by the FSA on Youtube and later released on Orient TV on 1 November. This 10-point agreement states that “everyone stands united with the Syrian revolution” and “our goal is the fall of the regime”.

The agreement calls for the removal of checkpoints that hinder FSA-operations, or create them jointly, giving back confiscated weapons and cars to their owners, releasing detainees from both sides, stop campaigns against each other in the media, help military defectors and Arab-Kurdish activists, remove all sources of tensions by creating a joint military commission.

Malik al-Kurdi, a senior commander in the FSA told the Turkish newspaper Zaman, that “some of the PKK commanders are aware of this [that Assad wants an Arab-Kurdish conflict] and they resist being drawn into a new war. Both opposition forces and Kurdish militants have some conditions [that must be met] to reach a compromise.”

However, several sources confirmed to Rudaw that the agreement has not been fully implemented, and that five shells hit the PYD-controlled Sheikh Maqsoud, and Ashrafiya on 4 November, killing 3 people. The pro-PYD news website Xeber24, said the shelling by the Syrian government could be a “message to us from the Baath-regime” [against the agreement].

Xeber24, reported that negotiations have been ongoing and that there are difficulties about discussing the return of weapons and vehicles seized by both sides “because the other party insisted on some things that were unrealistic and illogical”. Moreover, YPG commander Nujin Deriki has not been freed yet, which has lead to frustrations among the PYD leaders.

Mohammed Ibrahim, a Kurdish political activist from Amude, told Rudaw, “We all hope that this agreement is implemented to prevent bloodshed.”