Kurds’ relations with Russia and US based on ‘mutual interests’, not set in stone, says PKK figure

American army vehicles drive north of Manbij city, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria March 9, 2017. (© REUTERS/Rodi Said)

Turkey’s recent airstrikes targeting forces it says are affiliated with the PKK – but supported by the US and Russia – have strained Ankara’s ties with Washington and Moscow as well as regional countries, Iran and Iraq.

Kurdish parties condemned the attacks, which killed 20 Kurdish militants of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria and a Yazidi Shingal Resistance Units (YBS) member in Iraq, but have also criticised the muted response from the US and Russia.

A leading figure within the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has said that Kurds’ relations with the US and Russia in Syria are based on mutual interests but not set in stone.

Writing in the Europe based Kurdish daily, Yeni Ozgur Politika, Mustafa Karasu, one of the founders of the PKK said that the political and military status quo in the Middle East had been disrupted but that Ankara was still engaging “as if in the 20th century.”

“[Following the First World War Mosul and Kirkuk were left to the British and Turkey was given the go-ahead to form a nation-state predicated on the liquidation of the Kurds. The Treaty of Lausanne was the expression of this. Turkey’s membership to NATO in 1952 took this [policy] to another level. However, the balance in the Middle East based on the Treaty of Lausanne is no longer there, neither are conditions like they were during the Cold War. However [Turkish President] Tayyip Erdogan and [Nationalist Movement Party, MHP leader] Devlet Bahceli are ignorant and lack the capacity to see that the 20th century’s balances and parameters have changed.”

The prominent PKK figure argued that Ankara, by carrying out the attack, was trying to force Moscow and Washington to take an opposition stance against Kurds, but that this had failed.

“The Kurdish Freedom Movement [PKK] has organised in all parts of Kurdistan and strengthened its political and military power. That its ideological and political line have the features to resolve the problems of the Middle East, and because it has strengthened its military capabilities at a time when the status quo is crumbling and there is a search for a new system amidst the Third World War, has made the Kurds an important actor in creating the new in the region.

“The Turkish government, believing that the old status quo is still relevant, has insisted on a policy of crushing the Kurdish movement with the help of foreign powers and regional states. It has demanded from all powers to choose between them or Kurds. But international powers have responded by saying, “We cannot have a policy of excluding Kurds.”

Warning that the attacks in Shingal and Karachok had escalated the war and that this would continue, Karasu added that retaliation against Turkish forces had been legitimised and clashes on the border between Syria and Turkey were a sign of this.

The leading PKK member concluded his article by criticising both the US and Russia saying that the attack had laid bare the policies of both powers.

“The Kurdish people will not accept the balancing act, opportunistic and placating policies of the USA and Russia. They will resist aggression based on their own power. Neither Russia nor the USA nor any other power can prevent the will of the Kurdish people and people of Northern Syria… They [US, Russia] cannot say they are fighting ISIS and then remain silent on attacks targeting the Kurds, who have made massive sacrifices against ISIS.”

Following the Turkish airstrikes and three days of ensuing shelling at the border, both US and Russian forces have begun patrolling the area, with US forces in the northeast and Russian presence at the northwest preventing skirmishes.