Kurds in Qamishli celebrate the defeat of ISIS in Raqqa in October. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A Kurdish delegation from Rojava, northern Syria will likely participate in the latest Syrian peace effort in Sochi, Russia at the end of the month, but are doubtful about how much can be achieved, a senior Kurdish official has stated.
“Yes we are invited and we might take part in the show but it will not succeed,” Aldar Khalil, co-president of the executive body of the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM), told Reuters.
He questioned how much could be accomplished with many delegates in a two-day conference to resolve the root causes of nearly seven years of civil war that has fractured the country.
TEV-DEM is the governing coalition in Rojava, the Kurdish-dominated self-autonomous enclave in northern Syria. The Democratic Union Party (PYD), the main party within TEV-DEM, has been excluded from the Geneva and Astana processes, at the insistence of Ankara.
Kurdish-led forces, backed by the United States and the global coalition, now control about a quarter of the country after ousting ISIS from Raqqa and areas of Deir ez-Zor province.
Dubbed the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, the meeting in Sochi will take place on January 29 and 30, hosted by Russia with Iran and Turkey.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke with his Turkish and Iranian counterparts separately by phone on Friday to review preparations for the Sochi meeting and options for a political resolution to the Syrian civil war “under UN auspices,” according to the ministry.
While the three are planning the peace conference, Ankara has condemned “intensified attacks” in Idlib province by Syrian forces.
“This only serves to hinder the peace talks,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters on Friday, Anadolu reported.
The United Nations reported at least 85 civilian casualties
this year so far, partly due to a “rapidly-moving Government offensive” in Idlib, the UN’s human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said this week.
Russia and Iran are key allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Assad is a “terrorist” and must go.
Idlib was designated a de-escalation zone by Turkey, Russia, and Iran during the Astana process. Turkish forces have entered the province to establish observation posts in order to monitor a ceasefire in the province and to prevent Kurds from expanding their territory and possibly reaching the Mediterranean.
Ankara conflates Kurdish groups in northern Syria, PYD and the armed YPG, with the PKK, a named terror organization. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said several times that he will not allow a “terror corridor” along Turkey’s border.
Khalil predicted that the Syria conflict will continue until at least the end of Assad’s current presidential term in 2021. “Daesh [ISIS] might expand in other areas, and of course the Turks might try to stir up problems in some areas,” he said.
Saleh Moslem, former leader of the PYD and now a foreign relations official for TEV-DEM, agrees that Turkey’s role will make a difference to peace in the area.
“If Turkey doesn’t attempt any tricks, our area will have more calm,” he told local ANHA news.
Moslem warned Turkey against attacking Kurdish areas in Afrin, just north of Idlib. “The Kurdish people will rise up as a whole. It will be total warfare,” he said.
In the meantime, Khalil told Reuters, the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria will continue to establish self-rule and will hold the third and final stage of elections at some point in the future.
Local officials announced earlier this month that parliamentary and congressional elections were postponed
in order to allow more time to prepare. Khalil said that one reason for the delay was to decide whether or not to hold the vote in areas recently liberated from ISIS.