Syrian Kurds Play the Russia Card in Pursuit of Autonomy

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 10 Issue: 10

By: Wladimir van Wilgenburg

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(Source: Kurdistan National AssemblySyria)

The ongoing political and security crisis in Syria has provided unexpected opportunities for Syria’s Kurdish community to initiate diplomatic discussions with Russia, China and Iran in its pursuit of regional autonomy, a near impossibility under the Assad regime before the outbreak of political violence as part of last year’s “Arab Spring.”

The Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (PKK – Kurdistan Workers Party) and its Syrian affiliate, the Partiya Yekitiya Demokrat (PYD – Democratic Union Party), Russia, Iran and China are opposed to  outside intervention by the Western states or Turkey and prefer to find alternatives This has resulted in the reshaping of relations in the region.

In the past, Russia has utilized the PKK as a lever against Turkey to deter possible Turkish support for Chechen insurgents. [1] After 2008, Russia emerged as Turkey’s largest trading partner and relations improved, but now Turkey and Russia have differences over Syria. [2] For Russia, Syria is a long-term ally in the Middle-East and the naval supply station in the Syrian port of Tartus is of strategic value (see Eurasia Daily Monitor, April 19). This has caused friction in Russia’s relations with Turkey, which has abandoned its ties to Syria and now supports the removal of the Assad-government while opposing any role for the PKK and the PYD in a post-Assad Syria.

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