Kurds in Syria have long demanded participation in the peace talks in Geneva. Not long ago, a delegation from Damascus paid a secret visit to the Hasakah province to negotiate terms.
Sputnik – Middle East
Top-level Syrian officials recently met with leading Kurdish self-defense units and political parties to discuss their involvement in the forthcoming Geneva 3 talks on the future of Syria to be held January 25, Iraqi Kurdish news outlet BasNews reported.
A number of high-ranking military officials, headed by Mohammad al-Shaar, the Interior Minister of Syria, reportedly traveled to the majority-Kurdish town of Qamishli on the border with Turkey.
The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) hosted their negotiations with the People’s Protection Units (YPG) alongside the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), according to BasNews.
Meanwhile, a campaign has been launched by the Kurdish National Council in Syria (ENKS) to bring to the world’s attention the status of the Syrian Kurds during the upcoming Geneva talks. A petition addressed to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is aimed at gathering a million signatures, local media reported.
“The petition emphasizes the role that Kurds have played in Syria and asks that people be included in the decision-makings about their future,” Ibrahim Biro, head of ENKS, commented to Kurdistan24. “We want to tell the United Nations and the international community that the [Kurdish] people [in Syria] are the decision makers in such significant matters, and that politicians should not be the only ones who have a say in the destiny of our people.”
Russia objected to excluding Kurds from Syrian peace negotiations after they were not invited to the Syrian opposition summit in Saudi Arabia mid-December 2015. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed that the Vienna-format talks on resolving the long term Syrian civil war must include of all the country’s opposition groups, as well as a delegation from Damascus.
Earlier, Syrian President Bashar Assad stated that Kurdish autonomy could only be discussed after a victory over terrorism.
— fatehmoradiniaz (@FMNiaz) January 17, 2016
Kurds comprise some 10% of the population in Syria and have formed a self-governing autonomy dubbed Rojava (“West” in Kurdish), consisting of four cantons, with its own constitution based on the principle of direct democracy. The battle-hardened Rojavan self-defense units, People’s Protection Forces (YPG) and its female branch (YPJ), have proved one of the most effective ground forces against jihadists of Daesh and al-Qaeda (Nusra).
A number of influential Kurdish and Assyrian political parties have broken away from a Syrian opposition bloc
The arguably most influential political party of the Syrian Kurds, PYD (Democratic Union Party) — which formed one of the best anti-Daesh ground forces, YPG — and its Christian Assyrian ally, the Syriac Union Party, along with Kurdistan Democratic Party in Syria (PDK-S) have suspended their membership in a Syrian opposition bloc known as the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCC), Kurdistan24 news outlet reported on the weekend.
The Kurdish PYD was a founding member of the leftist Committee, which is often regarded as the main non-armed umbrella group for the Syrian internal opposition.
“Many reasons led us to freeze our membership in NCC,” Sihanouk Dibo, a high-ranking representative of PYD told Kurdistan24. “The most important one to us is that many NCC members designated the Syrian Kurdish forces of People’s Protection Units (YPG) as terrorists.”
First and foremost, acceptance of foreign military aid in fighting Daesh caused that the NCC began stigmatizing its only non-Arab members, a statement published by PYD on Thursday, corroborated.
“NCC’s inclusion of the Kurdish forces of YPG, YPJ (Women’s Protection Units) and SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) in the list of terrorism and demeaning of their victories against IS (Daesh) violates the ethics and noble goals of struggle against terrorism,” the release read.
“Our goal is achieving a democratic Syria for all the Syrians regardless of their ethnicity or sect,” PYD stated.
In December 2015, the Kurds were ostracized from opposition talks held in Saudi Arabia. Riyadh invited 116 representatives from various political and militant groups of Syria to a two-day conference, but some of the participants reportedly had close ties with violent extremist groups. The Kurds and allied groups held their own meeting in the northeastern Syrian province of Hasakah instead.
The Riyadh summit resulted in the formation of a 32-member council, which is set to choose 15 delegates to represent the Syrian opposition at the peace talks with Damascus, due to be held in 2016 in accordance with the Vienna communique of November 14, 2015.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed that the Vienna-format talks on resolving the Syria crisis should include all of the country’s opposition groups, as well as a delegation from Damascus.
Spokesperson for the Secretary-General of UN recently commented on the exclusion of Kurdish representatives from the talks.
“It is important that as many voices as possible, the wide… the different cultures and minorities and religion groups that exist in Syria be represented at the talks,” Stephane Dujarric highlighted.
SDF, mentioned in a citation above, a secular military anti-jihadist alliance of northern Syria, backed both by Russia and the US, consists mostly of the Kurdish YPG/YPJ units alongside Arab and other minor ethnic militias. The local coalition was formed in northern Syria late last year, but has already carried out several successful operations against Daesh and captured a strategic dam over the Euphrates River and still continues to advance.
Footage of the Russian airforce doing CAS (Close air support) for YPG in Sheikh Maqsood, Aleppo. [1/2] pic.twitter.com/W3OBRcULE8
— Afarin Mamosta (@AfarinMamosta) January 5, 2016
The political branch of SDF declared that it is currently working with Moscow on obtaining representation at the forthcoming peace talks.