Former Kurdish President Masoud Baqrzani during an interview with BBC. Photo: screenshot/BBC
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The deployment of the Peshmerga to help their fellow Kurds in Afrin against Turkey’s military operation will not help solve the problem, Masoud Barzani, head of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), said in an interview.
Barzani, who declined to extend his term as president of the Kurdistan Region in November, told the BBC that he is “deeply concerned” about the Afrin operation, but that the Peshmerga have no role to play in the conflict that began last Saturday.
“We are deeply concerned. And we do hope that this military operation would stop as soon as possible, because the fighting and wars are not the solution to the problem,” Barzani said.
“Sending Peshmerga will not solve the issue there. The best assistance we can offer is trying our best to stop the offensive,” the former president explained.
When the Syrian Kurdistan city of Kobane was under siege by ISIS in late 2014, Barzani ordered the deployment of Peshmerga forces to assist the YPG in its defence, albeit with the consent of Turkey as they had to pass through Turkish territory.
A senior member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said earlier in the week that they were willing to deploy Peshmerga to Afrin
to fight against Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch, though he acknowledged that doing so would be almost impossible.
Mala Bakhtiar described the defence put up by the YPG in Afrin as “sacred” and expressed hope that Ankara would allow a delegation from the Kurdistan Region to visit Turkey to discuss a peaceful resolution to the Afrin situation.
Turkey regards the YPG as an extension of the PKK, a Kurdish armed group that has been involved in an insurgency against the Turkish state for over three decades, fighting for greater cultural and national rights for millions of Kurds. It is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey. The YPG, backed by the US-led anti-ISIS Global Coalition, denies any organizational links with the PKK.
Noah Bonsey, a senior analyst writing for the International Crisis Group, argued that Turkey and Kurdish groups cannot solve one problem without the other and called on Turkey and the PKK to go back to the peace process that ended in mid-2015 after two years of negotiations. He proposed an arrangement that would see Turkey end its cross-border activities in return for the PKK pulling its forces out of Turkey, followed by talks.
The deadly war initiated by Turkey’s military and its Syrian proxies about a week ago to drive out the Kurdish forces on the border strip between Turkey and Syria “is likely to prove indecisive and costly for both sides,” the analyst predicted.
He explained that the operation has already caused a “headache” for Washington.
Ankara and Washington are NATO allies, but the two disagree over the fate of the Kurdish fighters post-ISIS in Syria.
A phone call between US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday in which they discussed Afrin only added more to the tensions between them. Three days after the two leaders spoke, they still have not agreed yet on what they discussed or agreed to.