Tensions Rise as Barzani Closes Syrian-Iraqi Kurdistan Border

Article Summary
After Syrian KDP members are detained by the PYD, Iraqi Kurdistan President Barzani ordered the border closure between Syria and the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Massoud Barzani reacted to the detention of 75 members of the Syrian Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), who were close to him, by the Democratic Union Party (PYD).

When the PYD, known as the PKK’s [Kurdistan Workers Party] Syrian extension, did not release the detainees by nightfall, Barzani closed the Iraqi-Syrian border.

According to reports, Barzani has ordered some special units of his Peshmerga forces to the Derik region on the Syrian border.

Tensions rose after the PYD, which is the Syrian extension of the PKK that is getting increasingly more dominant in Syria’s Kurdish region, detained 75 pro-Barzani residents who were protesting the regime and supporting the opposition in the Derik region. Reports said on Friday and Saturday [May 17 and 18] that some Kurds protested the oppression carried out by the PYD on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

A number of Kurdish groups and politicians — led by the Syrian KDP — participated in protest marches in the city of Qamishli. The protesters, who were denouncing Assad, also demanded that the PYD free young oppositionist Kurds it had been holding for months and called on the PYD to heed the Erbil Accord that was signed among different Syrian Kurdish groups. The demonstrators asked the Kurdish Supreme Council to do its part. They said they won’t bow before a dictator like Assad and organizations like the PYD. A day after this demonstration, the PYD detained 75 people crossing the Syrian-KRG border.

Barzani sent messages to the PYD asking that those detained be released immediately or warned of action. The KRG gave the PYD till nightfall. When the PYD did not release the detainees — who were kept at an undisclosed location — the KRG said the border was closed.

Observers say Barzani’s closure of the border will cause major problems for the PKK, as it will sever the logistical links between the PYD and the PKK. A senior KRG official said if the PYD does not release the detainees, there could well be clashes.

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Found in: syrian, pyd, kurds, kurdistan, krg, kdp
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