Major Kurdish party again excluded from Syria peace talks in Geneva

Kurdish fighters of the YPJ and YPG [PYD affiliate]. File photo

ARA News 

ERBIL – The Democratic Union Party (PYD) was again excluded from the Syrian peace talks that are about to resume next week in Geneva. “Turkey is afraid of the participation of Kurds, because the Turkish government knows their impact on northern Kurdistan [Kurds in Turkey],” PYD official Zuhat Kobani told ARA News. 

Although the PYD is excluded, the Kurdish National Council (KNC) will participate as part of the Higher Negotiations Committee (HNC) of the Syrian opposition.

“I think it’s just the members of the HNC, is my understanding at this point. It’s the same grouping, the same members of the HNC who participated in the previous round,” Mark Toner, a spokesperson for the US State Department said on Tuesday. 

However, PYD official Zuhat Kobani remains positive that the PYD will be included in Geneva at some point. “At some point the Kurds will be included in Geneva sooner or later, because Geneva cannot get any results without the participation of all components, including the Kurds,” he added.

Jihad Makdissi, an independent Syrian opposition politician, told ARA News so far there is no consensus on inviting the PYD.

“The exclusion [of PYD] is not coming from the Syrian opposition but there is no international consensus on inviting them yet. As for our platform we are against excluding any components,” he said. 

Another Syrian opposition member, however, said on the condition of anonymity that the main reason for excluding the Kurds is Turkey, that sees the PYD as no different from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

“Primarily, because of Turkey,” he said. “But we also need to be objective, and the PYD should slow down and appease the fear of certain countries and even some Syrians about its federalism project. I think they should go back to stress as a start the decentralised system,” he added.

The federalism declaration was opposed by most of the Syrian opposition and regime. The Arab co-leader of the PYD-allied Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) Haytham Manaa withdrew from his position, opposing the federalism announcement made by the PYD and its Arab allies on March 17. 

However, PYD official Nawaf Xelil also blamed the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan region. “Sadly, the KDP also does not want us to go to Geneva.”

Riyadh Hijab, the head of the Syrian opposition’s delegation for peace talks, on Tuesday visited the Kurdistan Region’s capital Erbil, and met with the Kurdish National Council (KNC), and president Masoud Barzani, suggesting that the KNC represents the Kurds in Syria, Rudaw reported.

Nevertheless, PYD official Xelil says the PYD will continue to work on federalism the next six months, “while Geneva talks will fail”. 

“I don’t think there will be a solution in Geneva. I believe Russia and the US know Geneva will not be successful,” PYD official Xelil told ARA News on Wednesday. 

“The PYD/YPG is like a forbidden romance for US anti-ISIS policy. The Americans are working more closely with the YPG as the campaign continues, while Turkey, along with some of its Arab state allies and the Turkish-backed Syrian rebels forbid the Americans from bringing the YPG to Geneva,” said Nicholas Heras, a Washington-based Middle East researcher at the Centre for a New American Security. 

“The truth of the matter is that although the YPG and PYD are not invited to Geneva, everyone involved with the negotiations knows that Assad’s statelet and the Rojava administration are the two non-negotiable components of the post-conflict settlement,” Heras told ARA News.

Nevertheless, Heras said that the federalism of the Syrian Kurds is a de-facto reality.

“The Russians and Iranians will not negotiate away Assad’s statelet, and the Americans are seriously building a military presence in the Rojava administration that is intended for a long-term war against ISIS,” he said. 

Therefore, Heras suggests it’s more logical for anti-PYD actors to engage with the Kurds to find a solution for the Syrian civil war. 

“The anti-YPG actors that prevented the PYD and YPG from going to Geneva should be engaging with these powerful Syrian Kurdish movements, not rejecting them, if they are serious about building up a pragmatic, workable political solution to the Syrian civil war.”

Russia accuses western states of blocking Kurdish participation in Syria peace talks

Russia’s proposal to include Kurds in Geneva Syrian talks was vetoed by the UN Security Council’s Western members, Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said on Tuesday, adding “this contradicts UN resolutions on Syrian reconciliation and ignores calls for inclusive talks”. 

The Russian official warned that if the Syrian Kurds do not participate in the peace process, “international efforts to bring peace to Syria could be undermined”. 

“We are concerned that the Syrian Kurds, historically woven into the social fabric of the country, still have not been invited to the Geneva talks,” he said, pointing out that by not inviting the Kurds, the West is violating the spirit of inclusiveness for the Syrian talks in the UN Security Council resolutions on Syria.

Earlier on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that it was crucial that all parties, including the Kurds, are included in the upcoming round of Geneva talks. He made the statements after meeting with UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura in Moscow.

In the meantime, referring to the inclusiveness of the talks, French Senate President Gerard Larcher stated that participants in the Geneva talks should consider the possibility of allowing the Kurds to take part.

“Negotiations should be inclusive…we should consider the possibility of the Kurds’ participation,” he told journalists on Tuesday. He also stressed that Syria should remain a single state, adding that France supports resumption of the talks.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg 

Source: ARA News 

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