US in First Talks With PKK-Linked Syria Kurdish Party

US in First Talks With PKK-Linked Syria Kurdish Party US in First Talks With PKK-Linked Syria Kurdish Party

US officials have held direct talks for the first time with a Kurdish political party in Syria linked to Turkey’s PKK, seen by the US and others as a terrorist organization, the US State Department said Thursday.

The talks with Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party, known as the PYD, took place in Paris over the weekend and come as the US seeks to build a wider coalition against the IS group, France 24 reported.

“We have for some time had conversations through intermediaries with the PYD (Kurdish Democratic Union Party). We have engaged over the course of just last weekend with the PYD,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a briefing.

The PYD has close ties to the PKK, a Turkish Kurdish party that waged a militant campaign for Kurdish rights and has threatened to abandon a peace process with Turkey in response to the current attack on the Syrian town of Kobane by IS militants.

Turkish warplanes were reported on Tuesday to have attacked Kurdish rebel targets in southeast Turkey after the army said it had been attacked by the PKK, risking reigniting a three-decade conflict that killed 40,000 people before a cease-fire was declared two years ago.

The PKK is considered by Turkey and the US to be a terrorist organization and the talks are likely to further complicate relations between Washington and Ankara as the two countries negotiate over how much Turkey is willing to contribute to a global coalition that aims to defeat the IS group in Syria and Iraq.

Psaki predicted the two sides would continue to engage, although she said the US is not actively working with the PYD against the Islamic extremists.

The meeting “does not represent coordination – it represents one conversation,” Psaki said.

Turkey has so far been reluctant to be sucked into the morass of the Syrian conflict without clear guarantees from western allies that more will be done to help repatriate 1.6 million people who have fled across the border from Syria.

It has also refused to bow to pressure to aid Kobane, either by ordering in Turkish tanks and troops that line the border, or permitting weapons and ammunition to reach the town.

 Kobane to Be ‘Liberated Soon’

Meanwhile, the IS militants have been driven out of most of the northern Syrian town of Kobane, a Kurdish commander has told the BBC.

Baharin Kandal said IS fighters had retreated from all areas, except for two pockets of resistance in the east.

Speaking by phone, Kurdish commander Baharin Kandal told the BBC that she hoped the city would be “liberated soon”.

Kandal said her militia group had been receiving arms, supplies and fighters but she refused to say how.

A Kurdish official in Kobane, Idris Nassen, confirmed to the AFP news agency that IS had pulled back from some areas.

But he warned: “We need more air strikes, as well as weaponry and ammunition to fight them on the ground.”