Barzani says Syrian Kurds being trained in northern Iraq
President Massoud Barzani reacts during an interview with the Associated Press in Salah al-Din resort, Arbil north of Baghdad on April 25, 2012. (Photo: AP)
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani has acknowledged for the first time that his government is training Syrian Kurds in northern Iraq.
A good number of the young Kurds who fled have been trained. We do not want to interfere directly in the situation, but they have been trained, Barzani said in an interview with the Qatar-based news outlet Al Jazeera on Monday.
He added that the group has not yet been sent back to Syria, but is intended to be deployed there to fill any security vacuum as Syrian security forces retreat. Al Jazeera quoted Barzani as saying that the fighting force, made up largely of Syrian Kurds who deserted the army and made their way across the border, would take its orders from a new high committee formed two weeks ago when two major Kurdish opposition groups put aside their differences.
They have not been sent to Syria. They are still here -- if this high committee requires them to go they still could, if not they will wait for the situation to be sorted out because these people are from these areas and they will go back eventually, he said. This was aimed at filling the vacuum that will be created.
Syria's Kurds have long suffered discrimination under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and many see in Iraq's autonomous region a place where they can find work and easily settle among people with common roots and language as Syria falls apart. Iraqi Kurdistan, autonomous since 1991, has its own provincial government and armed forces, though it still relies on the Baghdad central government for its budget.
There have been reports in the past few days indicating that Syrian Kurds have been gaining control over major Kurdish towns and cities near the Turkish border. Syrian Kurdish groups have reportedly gained control of several towns, including Kobane and Efrin in Aleppo and Amude in the city of al-Hasakah, over the past few days, while negotiations with Syrian forces for the peaceful surrender of Qamishli, the biggest Kurdish city in Syria, are under way.
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