Russia and the United States agree that the Kurds must participate in the intra-Syrian talks, according to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov.
Sputnik – Politics
Russia and the United States agree that upcoming intra-Syrian negotiations in Geneva have no prospects to succeed without the participation of Syrian Kurds, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said Thursday.
“We mean Kurds, of course, without whom there is no point to hope for any progress or decisions being made. We believe that the Kurds must participate,” Gatilov told RIA Novosti. Asked whether Washington agrees with this, he stated “as far as we understand, yes.”
Syrian Kurdish fighters have put up a fierce resistance against Islamic State (ISIL), also known as Daesh, militants, outlawed in many countries including Russia, in northern Syria. Last summer, they recaptured a string of villages along the Turkish borders from Daesh and took the road to Raqqa under their control.
But Ankara, a key regional player, has been opposed to involvement of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Geneva talks, claiming it is linked to the pro-independence Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant movement, which is active in southeastern Turkey.
PYD’s exclusion prompted protests in the Kurdish community, with PYD calling to recognize its five-year-long struggle against Daesh which gives it the right to be present at Syrian peace talks, according to Abd Salam Ali, the group’s representative in Russia.
The talks between Syrian opposition factions and the government of President Bashar Assad were due to begin Monday, but they were put back until Friday pending a UN response to opposition’s demands, including the end of the government siege on rebel-held areas.
Turkey Behind Kurdish Exclusion from Geneva Peace Talks
Despite being one of the most effective ground forces in the region, the Kurdish PYD has been barred from participating in Syrian peace. Elif Sarican of the Kurdish Student Union, tells Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear why the PYD has been left on the sidelines.
Sputnik – Middle East
“They have been heroic, and they have been, I would say, the sole reason why, in Kobane, ISIS was defeated,” Sarican tells Loud & Clear. “It’s been shocking for all of us that they’re not being included in these Syrian peace talks in Geneva.”
Those talks begin Friday, seeking an end to Syria’s bloody conflict. According to Sarican, Western nations have refused to allow the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) to join the talks for fear of upsetting Turkey, especially considering Ankara’s role in slowing the flow of refugees in mainland Europe.
“Turkey has been very smart about blackmailing the EU about this situation. So, ‘You either give us what we want, or we send the refugees your way,'” she says.
“Turkey does not want Kurds to gain any power or strength in the region because this challenges their authority.”
Ankara is also a crucial ally of the United States.
“Their geopolitical position in the region is key for the US at the moment, and I think has been for some time now,” Sarican says. “[The US] cannot lose Turkey as an ally, so therefore, they cannot upset Turkey.”
A stronger Kurdish presence could also help provide stability in the region – something the US has an interest in preventing.
“It wouldn’t benefit the US for the PYD to gain any more strength or power in the region, and to implement their ideologies, which is democratic federalism, which is the inclusion of everyone in the region, which is…the only solution to the Middle East,” she says.
“But this will mean stability in the Middle East, which, of course, as we know, will never benefit the US because it feeds off…this instability.”
Sarican also points out that Washington’s intervention in Syria is more about a desperate attempt to hold onto its status as the sole world superpower.
“Especially after Russia got involved, and they were, of course, as everyone saw, a lot more effective than the US had been over the last few years,” she says.
“The solution isn’t for humanitarian reasons or because they [the US] want people to live peacefully…they want to be the people behind some sort of action in the world,” Sarican adds. “They want to be seen as the saviors of the world.”
While the PYD is one of the most effective fighting forces, it could also be the best hope of diplomacy.
“The real idea of democracy is what the PYD would want to implement and what their direction would be in Syria.”
Given the long history of Turkey’s mistreatment of Kurdish communities, the PYD is simply fighting for a chance to live free of repression.
“They want human rights, to start with, but then they want to be able to govern themselves. They want to be able to say they’re Kurdish, they want to be able to be educated in Kurdish, and they want to be able to live the way they want to live.”