Syrian Kurds seek to re-unite divided ranks
ARBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - Rival Syrian Kurdish parties have agreed to re-unify their ranks and push for federalism in Syria after a previous pact that was not implemented, but the new deal has already been undermined by the reluctance of one faction to fall into line.
Syria's Kurds see the civil war ravaging their country as an opportunity to gain the rights they have long been denied under President Bashar al-Assad and his father before him, who deprived thousands of citizenship.
But they are divided over their role in the Syrian conflict and where they stand in relation to the Arab-dominated opposition, which some regard as inherently anti-Kurdish.
Under firm pressure from Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, representatives of two main camps: the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and the Kurdish National Council (KNC) met and renewed their commitment to a joint higher council.
"We agreed to adopt federalism as a working draft," said Aldar Khalil, a member of another council that presides over the PYD.
They also said they would create a joint security apparatus, control border checkpoints together and merge their military wings.
But an armed unit known as the Popular Protection Committess (YPG), which is affiliated with the PYD, issued a statement saying it would not unite with any other military force, according to media close to the group.
There is also discord regarding the new Syrian opposition coalition, which the PYD rejects as a proxy of Qatar and Turkey. The KNC, itself a coalition of more than a dozen smaller parties, has yet to decide whether to join the body.
The KNC is broadly accepted by the political mainstream, unlike the PYD, which is aligned with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Turkish Kurd militant group listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
Barzani already brought the two sides together in July, but the KNC repeatedly accused the PYD of flouting that accord, blaming the group for kidnapping one of its members and harassing rival activists.
A source close to the talks said he doubted the latest agreement would make much difference, citing suspicions of complicity between the PYD and Assad.
"Relations will be cordial for a week or two but then the same problems will resurface," he said on condition of anonymity. "The problem is there are two sides: one is with the regime and the other is against it".
At the recent meetings in the Iraqi Kurdish capital Arbil, Barzani said he would not support the Syrian Kurds unless they stayed together.
(Reporting by Isabel Coles; Editing by Jon Hemming)
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