US: PKK needs to leave Shingal

Mark Toner, the deputy spokesman for the US State Department

Mark Toner, the deputy spokesman for the US State Department, in a press briefing on Monday commented on tensions between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Shingal and said PKK fighters needed to leave the area.

The spokesman said the US was in dialogue with the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq and the central government in Baghdad regarding the attainment of stability in Mosul and Shingal.

“We are working to resolve tensions,” Toner said, adding, “we spoke about the tensions in Shingal before. We understand the strains in relation to the PKK. We believe the PKK does not have a place there. We view the PKK as a terrorist organisation.”

Five Yazidi fighters of the Shingal Resistance Units (YBS) and two militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) were killed in clashes with the Peshmerga forces affiliated to the KDP on 3 March in Khanesor. Four peshmergas were also injured.

In a meeting with KRG President Masoud Barzani on Monday, Brett McGurk, the Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter Islamic State, also echoed Toner’s words saying they were talking with Iraq, the KRG and Turkey to end tensions.

Turkey and the Barzani-led KDP has demanded that the Kurdish group, who moved into Shingal in August 2014 to counter the IS assault on the Yazidi community, leave the area. Ankara, which has been fighting a 33-year war against the PKK, has cited security concerns while the KDP has said the group’s presence is preventing stability and reconstruction.

KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani on Monday said the PKK should act “reasonably” and “leave Shingal” in a meeting with some Yazidi leaders.

“[T]he Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) wishes to start rebuilding Shingal as soon as possible, but the presence of the fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the region has become a problem that made the Kurdistan Regional Government unable to work seriously enough”

The PKK has defended its presence arguing that the IS threat has not been defeated in the region. In an interview on Monday, a high ranking PKK official, Cemil Bayik said they would not withdraw from the Shingal.

“ISIS [Islamic State] was going to take control of the whole of Shingal. This would have been shameful for the Kurds. The PKK stopped this from happening and defended the Yazidis. Today, the Yazidis are forming their system with their own will, identity and values.”

The group has also argued that the desire to push them out of Shingal, which is on the border with the autonomous administration (Rojava) in northern Syria, is ‘an anti-Kurdish plan by Turkey‘ to isolate the autonomous region and weaken Kurdish aspirations. The decision to deploy a 500-strong peshmerga group -Rojava Peshmerga, affiliated to the Kurdish National Council (KNC) of Syria- to Shingal, came following Masoud Barzani’s visit to Ankara.

According to reports thousands of Yazidis have marched to peshmerga posts in Khanesor on Tuesday morning. Reports suggest there are many injured after peshmerga fired on protestors.