Syrian Kurds in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli wave the Kurdish flag in celebration on September 26, 2017 in support of the independence referendum, a day after the vote was held in the Kurdistan Region. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - An official of the Kurdish National Alliance said they were not invited by Russia to participate in the Sochi peace talks as Moscow refused to accept their demands which mainly included the Kurdish cause in the war-torn country to be one of the key agendas of the congress.
Faysal Yousif said the denial of their participation was because on December 3, they had met with a Russian delegation in Qamishli and called on them to put the Kurdish question in the Sochi talks at the top of their agenda.
Yousif added in that meeting they had also asked for the Syrian peace talks to be held within the framework of international resolutions.
Niamat Dawoud, another member of the KNC or ENKS leadership confirmed that “until now no invitation has been received by the ENKS to take part in Sochi [talks]."
He believed the current atmosphere in Syria will not help the Sochi congress wield any positive results.
Daoud hoped Sochi will not become an alternative for the Geneva talks .
The ENKS, a coalition of five parties in Rojava, had officially announced last week that they will not be participating in the Sochi congress because of Russia’s actions with respect to Turkey’s Afrin campaign.
The Sochi talks will open up a fourth track of talks between parties to the complex conflict in Syria. The UN’s own Geneva program has been supplemented by the “technical” talks in Astana brokered by Russia, Iran and Turkey.
The Sochi conference is expected to take place on January 29-30 with backing from Turkey and Iran, but some 40 Syrian opposition groups have rejected Russia’s ability to host such an event, accusing the country of committing war crimes and trying to bypass the United Nations-brokered Geneva peace process.
The leader of the governing coalition in Rojava, the Kurdish dominated self-autonomous enclave in northern Syria viewed the Sochi congress to further Syrian peace talks as meaningless
after Russia did not oppose Turkey’s military offensive in Afrin which is still underway.
“Naturally in light of the Turkish attack on our areas and the Russian collusion with them, and the Russian support for them, Sochi no longer has any meaning in order to participate in it,” Aldar Khalil, told Reuters over the weekend.
Khalil is co-president of the executive body of the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM).
Syrian Kurdish groups had intended to attend the Sochi peace talks as their self-established federal entity.
The PYD had said in the past if invited, they would attend under the umbrella of their self-established federal enclave and not individual groups, “as we represent the political will of the entities and social forces in the region."
Damascus has rejected the self-proclaimed Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria, commonly known as Rojava.
However, Turkey has long opposed inviting the PYD or its armed group the YPG and the umbrella SDF to any peace ventures and has prevented their inclusion in the Geneva and Astana peace processes. Ankara believes the Kurdish groups are extensions of Turkey’s banned PKK – a charge they deny.
Ankara claimed that the conference was postponed in November because of its opposition to the Kurdish groups attending.
Russia, however, initially favored inviting the Kurds as it coordinated militarily with the YPG and SDF in Deir ez-Zor.
The Kurdish-led forces, which have been backed by the US, now control about a quarter of Syrian territory.
Turkey has been the main backer of the opposition groups and rebels trying to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad from power while Russia and Iran have been among his main backers. The three countries have teamed up to help mediate a peace settlement for Syria’s conflict, now in its seventh year, which has claimed the lives of 400,000 and caused the worst refugee crisis since World War II.