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Turkey and Syria’s Kurds Edging Toward an Uneasy Peace?

Fresh fighting between Syrian Kurdish groups and Arab opposition fighters in Syria's Kurdish region is threatening to spread.
Saleh Muslim, head of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), is seen during a Reuters interview in Berlin April 18, 2013.  Bombings of Kurdish areas in Syria suggest that Syrian Kurds, long detached from the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, are increasingly being targeted by his forces after they struck deals with rebels fighting to topple him, Muslim said. To match Interview SYRIA-CRISIS/KURDS REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay (GERMANY - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST PROFILE) - RTXYR77

As debate continues over Turkey’s controversial Syrian policy, its uneasy relationship with Syria’s Kurds, a crucial element in the equation, goes largely unnoticed. Deadly clashes between the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the most powerful Syrian Kurdish group, and jihadist militias in the mostly Kurdish Syrian towns of Afrin and Tir Tamar that erupted on May 25, will likely change this. Media outlets sympathetic to the PYD suggest that Turkey, together with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), its chief Iraqi Kurdish ally, are prodding the conflict.

Such claims were already being aired last week, when on May 18 PYD forces intercepted some 74 Syrian Kurds crossing illegally into Syria from Iraq, where they had allegedly undergone training by the KDP. In a Skype interview with Al-Monitor on May 21, PYD leader Saleh Muslim said that the men, all of them Syrian Kurds, were “members of a clandestine sleeper cell trained and recruited by the KDP,” which heads the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. According to Muslim, the men confessed under interrogation to being told to “await instructions from the KDP” and were eventually freed. The KDP, nonetheless, sealed the Iraqi portion of the border with Syria that it controls, a vital supply line for the Syrian Kurds and a source of income and patronage for the PYD.

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