Kurdish national conference held in Moscow despite Turkish sensitivities

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Kurdish politicians held a conference in Moscow on 15 Feb. to discuss challenges. Photo: ANHA

ARA News

On 15 February, a pan-Kurdish conference was held in Moscow with the participation of opponents of the Turkish government and allies of the Democratic Union Party in Syria (PYD), showing that Russia is trying to balance its relations with Turkey asnd the Kurds.

“Very pleased to see our national Kurdish conference in Moscow, which includes comrades from PYD, PUK [Patriotic Union of Kurdistan], Gorran and PJAK [Kurdistan Free Life Party]. Unity is strength,” said Adel Murad, a co-founder of the PUK.

“Politician Baydemir Osman showed our partners in the Moscow conference the reality of Erdogan’s war crimes against Kurdish civilians,” he added.

Speaking at the conference, PYD Co-Chair Asya Abdullah said they would not recognize any decisions taken on Syria in the upcoming Geneva talks, as long as they’re excluded from the talks. Although Russia called for the inclusion of the PYD, Turkey has pressured the Geneva 4 conference organizers to exclude the PYD from the peace talks–scheduled for 23 February.

The Moscow conference also included officials of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) from Turkey, and Kurdistan Islamic Union (IUK). The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDK-I) was invited, but was not able to join. However, it’s leader has reportedly sent a message to the conference.

Meanwhile, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), closer to Turkey, said it was not invited to the conference.

The conference was held on the 18th anniversary of the arrest of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, and the PKK also sent a message to the conference, and included Ebru Günay, Öcalan’s lawyer.

“The AKP [Erdogan’s] government is anti-Kurdish and anti-PKK,” the PKK said. “Because when the PKK line prevails, Turkey and all enemies of Kurds and the statist despotic bigotry based on five millennia old domination of women will also fall apart.”

Last week, Russian Foreign Ministry official Aleksandr Botsan-Harshenko said that Russia does not see the PKK and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as terrorists, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with PYD officials in Moscow in late January.

Speaking to ARA News, Timur Akhmetov, a Russian analyst on the Middle East, said it’s unlikely that Moscow did not knew of the conference, although Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denied Russian diplomats participated in the conference, and told the reporters in the press briefing to contact the conference organizers.

“Not all Kurdish factions were invited. It seems Russia is trying to balance [relations with] Turkey. I am sure such events cannot take place without the Kremlin’s approval. It’s a sensitive topic for Turkey,” he said.

Turkey improved its relationship with Russia in August 2016, and Russia has also supported the Turkish-led military operation in Syria’s al-Bab since January.

Nevertheless, they continue to have differences. Ankara and Moscow disagree over the agenda of the Astana-based Syrian negotiations. While Ankara wants to just discuss the ceasefire in Syria, Russia also wants to discuss a political solution. Last week three Turkish soldiers were killed by accident in a Russian air strike near al-Bab.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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