Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Photo:AP File.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region –Russia has called for the inclusion of the Kurds in the expected Geneva talks later this month, after their exclusion in previous rounds of both Geneva and Astana talks.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that his country is trying to bring the Kurds and the Syrian regime to a common ground aimed at preserving the unity of the country.
Lavrov said that there were four rounds of direct and indirect talks between the Syrian regime and the Syrian Kurds including the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from June to December 2016, the state-run Russia Today reported.
The Saudi-backed High Negotiation Committee meanwhile is scheduled to hold a three-day meeting in Riyadh to decide on the list of their delegation for the fourth round of Geneva talks on February 20, the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat reported on Friday.
Russia said that this time around the Syrian opposition and the regime should hold direct talks in Geneva, whereas the talks in Astana, co-hosted by Russia Turkey and Iran, were not direct, held on January 23 and 24.
"We believe that these negotiations should be direct, that the opposition delegations should be broadly representative of all political forces in modern-day Syria who seek a peaceful settlement of the conflict in that country, including the Kurds," Russian envoy to UN Office in Geneva Alexei Borodavkin told reporters.
The Kurdish ruling Union Democratic Party (PYD) had earlier said that they had received assurances from countries including Russia, that they would attend the meetings in Geneva, a move strongly opposed by the Syrian opposition, and one of their regional backers, Turkey, which considers the Kurdish group an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and therefore a terrorist organization.
Turkey and Syrian political and armed opposition groups agreed in a meeting in the Turkish capital of Ankara last Friday to exclude the PYD from the upcoming talks in Geneva.
Ibrahim Biro, the head of the coalition of the Kurdish National Council (KNC or ENKS), who attended the meeting told Rudaw that Turkey had made it clear that the PYD will not be part of the opposition delegation in the fourth round of Geneva talks, a view shared by the Syrian opposition.
“The objection was not exclusively to the PYD,” Biro said. “The Moscow and Cairo parties, including the PYD who attended a meeting several days ago in Moscow, are not yet accepted among the opposition parties. The opposition looks at these parties as closer to the regime,” he explained, in reference to Syria opposition parties who are stationed in Cairo and Moscow.
The KNC, the main Kurdish Syrian opposition party in Syria has attended the Geneva and Astana talks, but they do not have any real authority on the ground in northern Syria where the PYD has created Rojava administration, a self-autonomous region.
Russia’s foreign ministry signalled on Thursday a second round of talks in Astana to be held on Feb 15 and 16, almost a week before the UN-sponsored Geneva talks.
Today, Moscow confirmed that the meetings in Astana are in no way to replace the Geneva’s, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told the Russian Sputnik news agency.