Ibrahim Biro, Abdulhakim Bashar and Darwesh Mirkan.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Three Kurdish leaders officially have been invited to take part in the Jan. 23 Astana talks between Syrian government and opposition parties, to be mediated by Russia, Iran and Turkey.
Ibrahim Biro, head of the Kurdish National Council (KNC or ENKS), Abdulhakim Bashar, deputy president of the Syrian National Council, and Darwesh Mirkan, as a consultant, have been fingered by Ankara to be present for the peace talks.
“Following the Jan. 9 meetings of a consulting delegation,” Bashar told Rudaw, “we were appointed by the Turkish government to participate in the Astana convention on the situation in Syria."
Bashar added “if political subjects are discussed in Astana talks, we will bring up the Kurdish question. But, we are set to participate in the talks in the name of an opposition delegation. All counter-regime parties will participate on one front as one delegation.”
Concerning the involvement of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Moscow has chosen silence, but Ankara has vehemently refused to invite the PYD and its armed wing of People’s Protection Units (YPG) to the meeting, calling the group an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
According to Turkish authorities, PKK and PYD are aimed at partitioning Syria, and Ankara has insisted on preserving the unity of Syria’s soil.
Both the US and Russia have previously shown strong support for the inclusion of the Kurdish factions’ participation in any talks regarding the future of Syria, where Kurds constitute around 10-percent of the population and are viewed as a moderate force running the mainly Kurdish-inhabited areas of northern Syria.
Last week, Mark Toner, deputy spokesperson of the US Department of State had said "YPG is — YPD, rather — is a force on the ground, is a representative group, and their voice will need to be heard in any kind of long-term solution to the situation in Syria.”
Toner had also said that PYD's inclusion was important for a political solution to Syria's turmoil and that “at some point, they have to be a part of this process.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu shortly afterward responded, “Then, the US should invite the terrorist group Daesh, too".
But Syrian opposition leader Mahmood Afandi did not echo the sentiment that PYD should be excluded in the talks.
“Unfortunately, Turkey has excluded the PYD. In the meantime, it has also conditioned that PYD should not be included in the ceasefire,” Afandi added. “Unfortunately, this creates barrier. PYD and all the other armed groups have to be present.”
Russia and Turkey have jointly announced that a new round of peace efforts will take place on January 23 in Astana for the first time after the failed Geneva negotiations last year.