Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Muaalim Photo: AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—Syria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Walid Muaalim, on Saturday described ISIS as “the common threat” against what he called “all the Syrian people” and praised Kurds for their opposition to the Jihadi groups.
“Kurds are citizens of Syria and we are in the same ditch together against the ISIS as we try to rebuild the country,” Muaalim told a group of reporters in Damascus two days before the third round of talks in Geneva, Switzerland, on the future of Syria set for Monday, March 14.
Nearly 30 percent of Syria’s one million Kurdish population were stripped of their Syrian citizenship in the 1962 controversial census which declared them as ‘ajanib’ or foreigners. In April 2011, just weeks after the Syrian uprising, President Bashar Assad signed a decree to grant the ajanib citizenship, especially in Hasaka area.
Muaalim’s direct reference to Kurds as Syrian citizens came shortly after the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s call on UN to include Kurds in Monday’s talks, something Turkey was effectively able to block, as the talks will go ahead without representatives from the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).
Earlier on Saturday the UN envoy Staffan de Mistura voiced concern over the absence of Kurdish delegation in Geneva’s peace talks.
Quoted by the Swiss newspaper Le Temps the top UN envoy said Kurds had a right to express their views over Syria’s future.
“The Syrian Kurds are an important component of the country, so we need to find a formula in which they are able to express an opinion on the constitution and governance of the country,” he told the paper.
Turkey with a significant influence among Syria’s Free Army and Sunni opposition groups, warned it would disrupt the talks if the PYD was invited to Geneva meeting, Russian news agency TASS quoted Russia’s representative to the UN, Alexey Borodavkin on Saturday.
Ankara’s policy regarding the PYD shifted radically during 2015, as the Kurds increasingly distanced themselves from groups fighting Assad’s army and instead directed their arms solely against ISIS.
Ankara views PYD as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Syria although PYD leadership have frequently been invited to Turkey since 2011.
Both Russia and the US have shown support for the PYD with Washington rejecting Turkey’s call to put the Kurdish group in its black list.
The ceasefire in Syria which was declared on February 27 will continue through the peace talks in Geneva.