Iraqi Kurdish girls carry a Kurdistan flag in the northern city of Arbil, on December 17, 2013
Iraqi Kurdish girls carry a Kurdistan flag in the northern city of Arbil, on December 17, 2013 © Safin Hamed - AFP
Iraqi Kurdish girls carry a Kurdistan flag in the northern city of Arbil, on December 17, 2013
AFP
Last updated: December 17, 2013

Syria Kurds aim for unified front ahead of peace talks

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The two main Syrian Kurdish groups held talks in Iraq on Tuesday, aiming to establish a unified front ahead of a peace conference in Switzerland next month, an official said.

The People's Council of Western Kurdistan (PCWK) and the Kurdish National Council (KNC) have been at odds since last month when the former announced a transitional autonomous administration for Kurdish-majority areas of northeastern and northwestern Syria without the latter's backing.

The dispute has led to the closure of the border between Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, which backs the KNC, and Kurdish areas of northeastern Syria.

The KNC is a member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, which has accused the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the most powerful armed Kurdish organisation in Syria and the main group in the PCWK, of ties to President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The PYD wants an autonomous Kurdish area within a federal Syria, which the Syrian National Coalition opposes.

"The meetings of the Kurdish parties begin today, Tuesday, in Arbil," the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, KNC member Bahajat Bashir told AFP.

"These meetings are for the sake of unifying the Kurdish house and its political (position)... and preparing for the Geneva meeting, so the Kurdish participation will be strong," Bashir said, referring to peace talks that are now to take place in Montreux, Switzerland.

He added that the meetings also aim to improve relations between the PCWK and the KNC.

Iraqi Kurdistan regional president Massud Barzani met with delegations from the Syrian Kurdish groups on Monday, his website said.

During the meetings, he emphasised the importance of establishing a unified Kurdish position ahead of the peace talks scheduled to begin on January 22.

More than 126,000 people have been killed in the 33-month conflict pitting forces loyal to Assad against rebels.

But Kurdish-majority areas of the country's northeast were relatively quiet until clashes broke out this year between Kurdish militia and jihadist rebels, pushing tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds across the border into Iraqi Kurdistan.

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