UN voices worries over clashes in Shingal

UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric

United Nations Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said they did not have complete information on clashes in the Khanasor neighbourhood of Shingal but that the situation was “worrying.”

Responding to the question “What do you think about clashes between Rojava Peshmerga and YBS in Shingal?” from a Rudaw reporter, Dujarric is reported to have said:

“We do not have a direct source in the region. We have not been able to confirm what is happening. So all I can say is that any kind of clash of this sort worries us.”

Clashes broke out between Peshmerga forces (Rojava Peshmerga) affiliated to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) trained Shingal Resistance Units (YBS) in the Kurdish region in northwestern Iraq on Friday morning and lasted for more than two hours.

According to reports a YBS fighter died in clashes and three were injured, while four peshmerga were also wounded. Unconfirmed reports also claim the death of tens of peshmerga fighters.

At least three journalists were also injured in clashes with ANF News Agency reporter Nujiyan Erhan still in intensive care.

Peshmerga forces chief of staff, Jamal Iminiki, and PKK commander in Shingal, Agid Civian, met in Sinune following clashes on Friday evening and a 24 hour ceasefire was declared.

Both parties have accused each other of initiating the clashes. The YBS in a statement on Friday accused the peshmerga of trying to seize its positions. “It is a totally provocative initiative,” the YBS said.

Meanwhile the Peshmerga force spokesperson accused the YBS of trying to impede its movement. “We are making it public here that the Kurdistan Peshmerga force is free to move and deploy its forces when and where it wants within the borders of Kurdistan Region, and does not seek any party’s permission to do so.

Speaking to Kom News, Kurdish Policy think tank co-founder Kamal Chomani added a new dimension to the clashes and said, Turkey was behind the violence in the region.

“Turkey received Massoud Barzani in Ankara merely to push him to use the Roj and KDP peshmerga against the PKK in Shingal so as to create tensions; Turkey cannot accept Rojava’s advances in the fight to liberate Raqqa,” Chomani said, referring to the Syrian Democratic Forces operation to capture the Islamic State stronghold in Syria.

On Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu commenting on clashes said the PKK posed “a threat against the legitimate regional government in Northern Iraq and they are used by some countries against the current administration there.”

While leading KDP figures have not made an official statement on the matter, Hemin Hawrami, senior adviser to KRG President Masoud Barzani claimed the PKK had handed over Manbij in northwestern Syria to the Bashar al-Assad government and asked in a tweet:

“Question to PKK, You officially handed over west of Minbij 2 Syria regime army, if PKK is not seeking problem why they r not leaving Sinjar?”

The Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK), an umbrella group that includes the PKK also claimed in a statement that the “plot on Shingal” had been prepared in Ankara.

“Yesterday the attacks against the YBS and YJS (Shingal Women’s Unit) turned violent. It is noteworthy that these attacks come in the same week as Massoud Barzani’s meetings with Turkish leaders in Ankara. The attacks against Shingal were planned in these meetings. The Turkish foreign minister clearly stated the night before that they were going to attack Shingal together with the KDP.”

Kurdish journalist Amed Dicle, in a series of tweets on Saturday said most of the peshmerga forces were against the use of violence, but that the “big boss” – referring to Turkey – had given the order. He claimed the Rojava Peshmerga, “trained by Turkish forces”, aimed to enter the autonomous region in northern Syria and had no intention of defending the Yazidi community against the Islamic State (IS) group, which still holds areas in northern Shingal.

Kurdish and Yazidi political parties, organisations and leading figures have called for calm and a solution through negotiations.

A nervous wait continues in the region with both sides still in fighting positions. The 24 hour ceasefire is expected to end towards midnight Saturday. Meetings between the side continue, according to reports.