Kurdish men flash victory signs during the opening ceremony of the representation office of the autonomous Syrian Kurdish region in Moscow, on February 10, 2016. (AFP)
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QAMISHLI – The Russian Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, met both with the Kurdish National Council (KNC) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in separate meetings to discuss future peace talks in Geneva. The meetings come after the improvement of relations between Turkey and Russia.
The Russian Deputy FM Bogdanov met with Mustafa Sino, Ibrahim Biro, Kamiran Hajo, and Siamend Hajo from the KNC, and also had a separate meeting with Rodi Osman the representative of the Kurdish PYD-led self-administration of Rojava in Moscow, and Abdulselam Eli from the Democratic Union Party (PYD). The PYD and the KNC are the two biggest Kurdish political groups in Syria, but the PYD controls the local self-administrations on the ground.
“The parties exchanged opinions on Syrian developments and various objectives regarding a political settlement of the Syrian crisis based on the June 30, 2012 Geneva communique, the appropriate UN Security Council resolutions and decisions of the International Syria Support Group,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement about the meeting with the KNC.
“They noted the importance of including representatives of all national ethnic groups and religious denominations in the intra-Syrian negotiating process in Geneva to find long-term solutions and to determine the future of a united, independent and sovereign Syria,” the Foreign Ministry added.
The meetings between the Russian Foreign Ministry and Syrian Kurdish blocs come after the improvement of relations between Turkey and Russia. Since November 24, 2015, the Ankara-Moscow relation deteriorated after Turkey shot down a Russian jet. But Turkey recently apologized to Russia and is aiming to reestablish relations with the Russian government.
“Of course, this will affect the relations with the Kurds of Syria and Turkey very much. The Russians will reduce their level of engagement and support for the Kurds, but they will not be cut off,” Omar Sheikhmous, a veteran Syrian Kurdish leader, and one of the founders of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) told ARA News.
“These are very pragmatic and authoritarian regimes (…). They will think of future shifts in their relations. Erdogan is trying very hard to contain the threat from PKK and PYD. Expect some improvements of relations with Assad as well,” the Kurdish academic and veteran leader said.
“Many would link this to the recent Turkish-Russian rapprochement, but the rapprochement is still too young to yield such results,” Ceng Sagnic, a researcher with the Tel Aviv-based Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, said about the visit of KNC to Russia.
“The KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government] has been fostering relations with Russia since the Russian intervention in Syria started in September 2015, and it seems that the most recent result of these efforts was the invitation to KNC (…). Meanwhile, Russia is also aware of the fact that the political process in Syrian Kurdistan cannot be managed without KRG’s involvement, which translates into KNC in other words,” Sagnic added.
But Russian analysts say that Moscow will not change its policy towards Ankara and the Syrian government quickly.
Speaking to ARA News, Russian analyst on the Middle East Timur Akhmetov said: “I think it depends on whether Turkey in the long run is ready to compromise in Syria, especially in the issue of support provided by Ankara to opposition groups. Now, in Aleppo especially Syrian forces are being pushed back by Nusra and other groups.”
“And there are reports that Russia is considering further options in Syria, so priority now is to get more concessions from Ankara and through the Turks to get moderate opposition into further talks with Damascus. But of course, Moscow is not going to alienate Kurds, because it is a vital asset and can be used in the future to pressure both Turkey and US,” he added.
“But again, on the one hand, a cooperating Turkey presents a much greater asset than all the Kurds. But Moscow will be trying to engage as many sides as possible,” the analyst said.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg
Source: ARA News