Syrian Rebels Sign Deal With Kurdish Militia

PKK-Backed Militia Claims Victory in Deal

by Jason Ditz, February 20, 2013

The Free Syrian Army (FSA), one of the major rebel factions, has announced a pact with the Popular Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia faction with which they have been fighting for control over Kurdish towns in the nation’s northeast.

FSA expansions into the oil-rich Kurdish northeast have sparked months of clashes, with the YPG and several other militias gaining local support to resist the incursions. The YPG spun the deal as a victory, saying that the FSA had in effect promised to withdraw from the towns in return for an end to the fighting.

The YPG is the fighting force for the Kurdish Democratic Union (PYD) Party, which is itself closely affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Turkish faction that has been fighting a war with the Turkish government for decades.

The FSA’s close ties to the Turkish military and the YPG’s links to the PKK make such a truce likely to be controversial in the long run, but practical in the short term for both factions, with the YPG seeing it as a chance to establish de facto Kurdish autonomy in the region. With the Assad regime virtually withdrawn from the area, the pact will also allow the FSA to claim “liberation” of the region without actually having to fight the Kurds over control, at least for now.

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