Kurds preparing for local elections in Rojava in September. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – As military operations abate in Syria and international efforts to find a political resolution are beefed up, Rojava leaders are warning that peace efforts will fail if the Kurds are not included.
Any conference that does not include the Kurds “is doomed to failure,” Aldar Xelil, chairman of TEV-DEM (Movement for a Democratic Society), the governing coalition in Rojava, said in comments published by the PYD, the main party within TEV-DEM. Rojava is the self-autonomous Kurdish area in northern Syria.
The spokesperson for the all-women Kurdish armed force YPJ, agreed.
“A future plan without Kurds will not be so different from how it is now,” said Nesrin Abdullah in a published statement.
“The only way to end the ongoing crisis in the region is find a political solution to the conflicts,” she added.
Xelil said they are open to dialogue and negotiation with all parties, including Damascus.
Kurdish forces, including the YPJ and the YPG, are the leading group within the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), fighting ISIS alongside the US-led coalition in northern Syria. The SDF now control about a quarter of Syrian territory, yet they have been left out of the Geneva and Astana peace processes.
The latest peace effort was announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Wednesday after meeting with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts.
The three agreed to hold a “congress” of regime and opposition forces in Sochi. This congress would “gather representatives of different political parties, internal and external opposition,” Putin said. They would discuss “the parameters of the future state.”
The congress is meant to stimulate the UN-led Geneva process, he explained.
The next round of talks in Geneva is scheduled for November 28. UN envoy Staffan de Mistura is due to travel to Moscow on Thursday after meeting with Syrian opposition groups in Riyadh.
Damascus has said it endorses the Sochi gathering. A Syrian foreign ministry source told state-run SANA news agency that Syria has always supported “any political action that respects its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and helps put an end to the shedding of Syrian blood.”
Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad had met with Putin in Sochi just two days earlier.
An estimated over 330,000 people have been killed in more than six years of conflict that have devastated Syria.
Moscow and Tehran have backed Assad’s government while the US-led coalition has allied with the SDF. Ankara, while not supporting Assad, has worked with Russia and Iran to establish ceasefire zones.
Ankara has also carried out its own military campaigns in Syria, aimed at clearing terrorist elements from the border areas and curtailing Kurdish gains. Ankara considers the PYD and YPG extensions of the banned PKK – a charge the groups deny.
Turkey has claimed that a congress on Syria, scheduled to be held in Sochi on November 18, had been cancelled at Ankara’s request after Russia invited the Kurds.
Turkish forces are currently focused on Syria’s Idlib province on the border of Rojava’s Afrin canton. Kurdish forces have condemned Turkey’s “illegitimate” presence in Idlib and daily attacks on Afrin.
“Both Russia and coalition forces will be responsible for new massacres in Afrin if they keep being silent about attacks by Turkey,” said the YPJ’s Abdullah.