Dis­unity weak­ens the Syr­ian Kur­dish hand in Geneva

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS -

When it comes to piv­otal in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences, par­tic­u­larly in Switzer­land, the Kurds hardly have a colour­ful record. It was the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 that cru­elly de­prived the Kurds of an in­de­pen­dent home­land that was promised as part of the ear­lier Treaty of Sevres in 1920. Today the Kurds are slowly re­gain­ing con­trol of their des­tiny, but still suf­fer from the fate en­forced upon them by world pow­ers whilst they were de­prived of a voice.

With this in mind, the up­com­ing Geneva II con­fer­ence that for­eign pow­ers hope will lead to a peace­ful po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to the bloody Syr­ian civil war is an im­por­tant plat­form for the Syr­ian Kurds.

Yet in spite of in­tense ne­go­ti­a­tions in Er­bil to mend the Kur­dish di­vide and unite the Kur­dish stand in Geneva, unity ap­pears as elu­sive as ever and it’s be­com­ing in­creas­ingly ev­i­dent that the Kurds will send two sep­a­rate del­e­ga­tions to the talks, and wor­ry­ingly one with the Syr­ian regime del­e­ga­tion.

Af­ter decades of re­pres­sion and con­founded to the shad­ows of the Syr­ian state, the Syr­ian Kurds have been great bene­fac­tors of the in­tra-Arab tur­moil and af­forded a unique chapter in their his­tory.

Yet a lack of unity has been a se­vere hand­i­cap that has threat­ened to un­der­mine the new Kur­dish dawn and his­tor­i­cal junc­ture.

Re­gional jock­ey­ing over Ro­java be­tween the PKK, Turkey, Kur­dis­tan Re­gion and neigh­bour­ing pow­ers has added to the ten­sion.

The talks in Er­bil be­tween the Kur­dish Na­tional Coun­cil (KNC), which is more closely aligned with Mas­saud Barzani and is ex­pected to at­tend Geneva talks with the op­po­si­tion, and the Peo­ple’s Coun­cil of Western Kur­dis­tan (PCWK), which is spear-headed by the dom­i­nant Demo­cratic Union Party (PYD) that re­fused to join the Syr­ian Na­tional Coali­tion (SNC), failed to pro­duce a con­clu­sive agree­ment de­spite ear­lier prom­ise.

The Er­bil Agree­ment of 2012 which united the Kur­dish ranks with the es­tab­lish­ment of the Kur­dish Supreme Com­mit­tee has all but eroded.

The PYD, who re­cently de­clared au­ton­omy, is more closely aligned with the PKK and has been ac­cused of mo­nop­o­lis­ing power and has been the sub­ject of strong crit­i­cism from the Kur­dis­tan govern­ment,.

The Kur­dish dif­fer­ences over­shadow the frag­ile na­ture of the Kur­dish gains in Syria. Thou­sands of Kurds con­tinue to suf­fer in Syria and thou­sands more have sought refuge in the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion while fierce bat­tles con­tinue against Is­lamist forces.

The ideal po­si­tion for the Kurds is to at­tend as a sep­a­rate united del­e­ga­tion – this sends the strong mes­sage that the Kurds are a fac­tor within their own right and not merely as a com­po­nent of op­po­si­tion strug­gle. In other words, fight­ing for your rights in a broader coali­tion di­lutes the Kur­dish cause by the leav­ing the Kur­dish po­si­tion to one of mi­nor­ity rights. The Kurds were of­ten treated as se­cond-class by Arabs in Syria and de­serve a po­si­tion as a dis­tinct Syr­ian com­po­nent. This will en­sure Kurds are a sep­a­rate topic where a sep­a­rate so­lu­tion is re­quired with the ul­ti­mate goal of en­shrin­ing au­ton­omy.

Of course, of­fer­ing the Kurds such a po­si­tion at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­bles is likely to be blocked by Turkey, the US and some re­gional pow­ers.

The need for a united and strong Kur­dish po­si­tion in Geneva is not that Geneva II is likely to herald the lofty goals ex­pected. In con­trary, a stub­born regime and a highly dis­jointed Syr­ian op­po­si­tion are un­likely to strike an elu­sive po­lit­i­cal tran­si­tion with such wide start­ing po­si­tions, but such a Kur­dish po­si­tion would be sym­bolic and send a strong mes­sage to the world that Syr­ian Kur­dish rights and au­ton­omy is not the end goal but a start­ing po­si­tion.

The re­cent Er­bil talks must con­tinue with hope of bridg­ing gaps, en­sur­ing a share of power and de­ci­sion mak­ing in Ro­java, eas­ing the suf­fer­ing of the pop­u­la­tion through the open­ing of the bor­der cross­ings and above all putting Kur­dish na­tional in­ter­ests above any party or in­di­vid­ual in­ter­ests.

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