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US officials in contact with Syrian Kurds “for more than two years”: PYD spokesman - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Thick smoke and flames from a fire rises following a strike in Kobani, Syria, during fighting between Syrian Kurds and ISIS, as seen from the Turkey-Syria border on October 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Thick smoke and flames from a fire rises following a strike in Kobani, Syria, during fighting between Syrian Kurds and ISIS, as seen from the Turkey-Syria border on October 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Representatives from the main Syrian wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have been in contact with US officials “for more than two years,” an official spokesperson told Asharq Al-Awsat, adding that the talks had been kept secret by Washington to “avoid angering Turkey,” where the PKK is currently banned.

Despite the fact the PKK is also designated as a terrorist organization by the US and EU, Nawaf Khalil, the spokesperson for the PKK affiliate, the Kurdish–Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD), said this coordination had also included face-to-face meetings, some of which had involved former US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford.

The most recent of such meetings, he said, took place on October 12 in Paris between PYD leader Salih Muslim Muhammad and US State Department Special Envoy for Syria Daniel Rubinstein to “discuss implementing military coordination between the People’s Protection Units [YPG, the armed wing of the PYD] and the joint Arab–international coalition against terrorism,” as well as supplying Kurdish fighters engaged in fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Syrian border town of Kobani with weapons.

The US State Department confirmed on Thursday the meeting had taken place, which Khalil said showed there was “great progress in relations between the two sides, despite our reluctance to make these relations public in accordance with the protocols between us and the Americans.”

He also said there was progress in coordination between the Kurds and the EU, pointing out that this had an effect on the Turkish position on its involvement in the international coalition against ISIS.

He said the US and the EU had “put pressure on Ankara, which forced a change in its position regarding [its insistence on establishing] a safe zone and a no-fly zone” on Syrian territory and air space respectively, and to allow Syrian–Kurdish fighters to enter Kobani via the Turkish border.

Ankara had earlier this month made its involvement in the anti-ISIS coalition conditional upon both these points.

This comes as fighting between Kurdish and ISIS fighters for Kurdish-majority town of Kobani continued on Saturday in what the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said was the fiercest fighting in days, with ISIS firing 48 mortars at Kurdish parts of the town on Saturday and Sunday, as well as hitting it with car bombs.

The month-long battle for the town has seesawed drastically, with ISIS alternately making gains and then being pushed back by Kurdish fighters and coalition airstrikes.

Khalil said there was “ongoing coordination” between Kurdish fighters in Kobani and the US military in the fighting against ISIS, adding that despite there also being greater coordination on supplying weapons and ammunition, more were needed “in order to push ISIS back.”

Ankara itself has refused to help the Kurdish fighters in the town with either military involvement on the ground or through supplying them with weapons and equipment.

The PYD’s relationship with the PKK, which has been engaged in a three-decade-long armed struggle for Kurdish independence from Turkey, has made Ankara highly suspicious of the group and reluctant to arm or assist it in any way. On Sunday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Ankara viewed both the PKK and the PYD as “terrorist organizations” and that it would be “very, very wrong” and “impossible” for Ankara to help the PYD, according to Reuters.

Many of Turkey’s Kurds, who account for around 20 percent of Turkey’s population, have been calling on the government to assist Kurdish fighters in Kobani, with riots breaking out earlier this month following protests against the government’s non-interventionist stance.