Russians want to use the PYD against Turkey and US: analysts

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People of Sere kaniye in Syria's Hasakah province bidding farewell to Kurdish YPG fighters killed in clashes with ISIS. Photo: ARA News

ARA News 

VIENNA – Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov again voiced the Russian position that the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) should be included in the Syrian peace talks in Geneva. Analysts say the Russians want to use the Kurds against Turkey and the United States.

“It is very important that our joint position in the UN Security Council supposes an inclusive charter of the Syrian talks and we don’t have to exclude any parties, including Kurdish parties,” Lavrov said.

“We think it is something that we mustn’t do, and we mustn’t hinder including their party and to give them access to talks in Geneva,” he said in a press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry, and UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, after the meeting of the International Syria Support Group in Vienna.

Moreover, the Russian FM said that the 19 to 90 kilometers border with Turkey still controlled by the Islamic State (ISIS) should be liberated from the radical group.

“And there are two enclaves of Kurds, and from time to time Turkey says that if the Kurds push ISIL [ISIS] out from this border zone it will not put up with that because it is not acceptable for them,” Russian FM Lavrov said.

“In any case, somebody must combat ISIL on that border area because it is fragile. The contraband flow now – it has decreased and there was a flow of supplies, of weapons to the extremists and to flows of militants, and everybody acknowledges that this is not acceptable,” the Russian FM said.

According to Dov Friedman, the director of Middle East Petroleum, Russia is trying to use the exclusion of the PYD from Geneva to drive a wedge between Turkey and the US, that are still allies.

“Certainly, the PYD should be included, but that’s not Lavrov voices support for it. The Russians have again identified and exploited a wedge issue between the U.S. and Turkey over the PYD’s role in a Syrian transition,” expert Friedman told ARA News.

“Turkey routinely thwarts greater cooperation between the Syrian Arab opposition and the PYD, but the U.S. also shoulders considerable blame,” he said, amidst rumours that US officials visited the Kurdish city of Kobane in northern Syria on Monday to discuss future military operations.

“Its narrow focus on ISIS deemphasizes the broader Syrian conflict and enables other actors to impede progress toward a broader, collaborative opposition working toward a new Syria,” he said.

Speaking to ARA News, Tony Badran, a researcher at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that the Russian government wants to dilute the Syria opposition by supporting the PYD and to diminish the influence of the Saudi- and Turkish-backed groups.

“By adding others whose position toward the Assad regime isn’t as strong, or who are more amenable to reaching a working arrangement with Assad, it looks to turn the position of the Saudi- and Turkish-backed opposition into that of an outlying minority,” he said.

“On the other hand, it serves other, broader Russian purposes vis-a-vis Turkey/NATO and the US. The Russians are looking to shut out Turkey from Syria,” Badran told ARA News.  

“The way to do this, they’ve been very explicit, is to line up the border with the YPG [Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units]. Beyond the Syrian theater, this would mean gaining leverage against Turkey, and having an asset controlling the southern frontier of NATO (where the Russians are now directly present),” he added.

According to Badran, the Russians want to use the YPG as an instrument to push the US toward an open military and diplomatic cooperation with Russia, on Russian terms.

“[They want] to draw the US into a de facto partnership with the [Assad] regime, as the Russians look to include the PYD into an arrangement with the regime through the diplomatic process. So, any US cooperation with the Russians or the YPG would effectively, if not formally, lend recognition to the regime, and to the political arrangement that Russia brokered there,” he told ARA News.

However, Timur Akhmetov, an independent Russian analyst on the Middle East, believes that Russia wants to ensure that PYD keeps neutral in the conflict.

“If the PYD is neutral it can be used both against opposition and Turkey. Also Lavrov’s statement should demonstrate to the PYD that Russia is somehow supporting the Kurdish cause, but again Russia is playing a double game with PYD, “ he said.

“I don’t think Russia is sincere about Kurdish rights,” Akhmetov told ARA News. “Their main goal for now is to secure the regime, pacify the opposition and then to get to the Kurds.”

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg 

Source: ARA News 

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