Kurdish Forces to Keep Territory Taken from Syrian Govt Forces Under Qamishli Truce

Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) walk along a street in the southeast of Qamishli city, Syria, April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said

BEIRUT, April 24 – Regional Kurdish security forces will keep territory taken from pro-Syrian government forces during a three-day outbreak of violence in northeastern Syria, a truce document announced on Sunday showed, with both sides to release prisoners taken during the clashes.

Fighting broke out between Kurdish Asayish forces and pro-Syrian government security forces on Wednesday in Qamishli, near the Turkish border. A peace accord took effect at 3:30 p.m. (1230 GMT) on Friday and the truce was holding on Sunday.

A Syrian Kurdish YPG official said this was the second biggest outbreak of fighting between President Bashar al-Assad’s government and regional Kurdish forces since Syria’s civil war began in 2011.

During the fighting, Asayish forces seized control of a number of government-controlled positions in the city of Qamishli in Hasaka province as well as its main prison.

The truce agreement said “the prevailing military situation will be maintained as it is,” indicating territory taken from government control will not be returned.

Syrian Kurdish regional interior minister Canaan Barakat, speaking in Qamishli on Sunday to announce the terms of the truce, said 17 civilians, 7 Asayish members and 3 YPG members had been killed in the clashes.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group tracking the five-year-old war in Syria, said 22 members of Syrian government forces died and 80 were taken prisoner. It said 23 civilians died during government shelling of Kurdish-controlled areas.

The agreement also said: the structure of the pro-government national defence forces present in Qamishli will be reconsidered; prisoners and detainees taken by both sides will be released; compensation will be paid to civilians who lost relatives or suffered material damage during government shelling; and, the regime is to no longer interfere in the local society.

The truce also stipulated the state of emergency in the city should be lifted. The Observatory said life is slowly returning to normal but the main market remains closed.

Qamishli, near the Turkish border, is mostly controlled by Kurdish security forces, though pro-Assad forces still hold a few areas in the city centre, and its airport. This co-existence is largely peaceful.

Syrian Kurdish forces now dominate wide areas of northern Syria and set up their own government there. Syria has become a patchwork of areas controlled by the government, an array of rebel groups, Daesh militants, and Kurdish militia.

Mediators have struggled to get Syria’s combatants to honour a Feb. 27 cessation of hostilities deal to enable peace talks to proceed. On Friday, the U.N. special envoy for Syria vowed to take the talks into next week despite a walkout by the main armed opposition with both sides gearing up to escalate the war.

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