Turkey invites Barzani-backed Syrian Kurdish KNC leaders to Astana peace talks, PYD still blocked

Published by Ekurd Daily on January 18, 2017

KNC leaders (from left) Ibrahim Biro, Abdulhakim Bashar and Darwish Mirkan. Photo: Ekurd.net/K24/AA/G+

KNC leaders (from left) Ibrahim Biro, Abdulhakim Bashar and Darwish Mirkan. Photo: Ekurd.net/K24/AA/G+

HEWLÊR-Erbil, Iraq’s Kurdistan region,— Three Syrian Kurdish leaders officially have been invited to take part in the Jan. 23 Astana talks between Syrian government and opposition parties, to be mediated by Russia, Iran and Turkey.

Ibrahim Biro, head of the Kurdish National Council (KNC or ENKS), Abdulhakim Bashar, deputy president of the Syrian National Council, and Darwesh Mirkan, as a consultant, have been fingered by Ankara to be present for the peace talks.

KNC, an affiliate of the Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic Party KDP led by Massoud Barzani and also backed by Turkish government, is a coalition of 12 small Syrian Kurdish parties and known to have developed an oppositional stance against the biggest Kurdish political PYD party in Syrian Kurdistan-Rojava.

“Following the Jan. 9 meetings of a consulting delegation,” Bashar told Rudaw, “we were appointed by the Turkish government to participate in the Astana convention on the situation in Syria.”

Bashar added “if political subjects are discussed in Astana talks, we will bring up the Kurdish question. But, we are set to participate in the talks in the name of an opposition delegation. All counter-regime parties will participate on one front as one delegation.”

Concerning the involvement of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Moscow has chosen silence, but Ankara has vehemently refused to invite the PYD and its powerful armed wing of People’s Protection Units (YPG) to the meeting, calling the group an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Turkey fears the creation of an autonomous Kurdish region in Syrian Kurdistan — similar to the Kurdish region in Iraqi Kurdistan — would spur the separatist ambitions of Turkey’s own Kurds.

The PYD has not invited to peace talks in Kazakhstan, the party official Khaled Issa told AFP last week.  The Syrian Democratic Federal Council in Syrian Kurdistan has said the peace talks in Astana will “fail” as Syrian Kurds are not being included in order to please Turkey.

The council said the Kurds have been excluded from Geneva-1, Geneva-2 and Geneva-3 meetings in order to please the Turkish state, and emphasized that this mistake is being repeating in Astana talks.

Massoud Barzani’s KDP which opposes the ruling PYD party doesn’t recognize the autonomous Kurdish government in Syrian Kurdistan. Political experts say Barzani, sees Syrian Kurdistan as potential political competition.

Both the US and Russia have previously shown strong support for the inclusion of the Kurdish factions’ participation in any talks regarding the future of Syria, where Kurds constitute around 10-percent of the population and are viewed as a moderate force running the mainly Kurdish-inhabited areas of northern Syria.

Last week, Mark Toner, deputy spokesperson of the US Department of State had said “YPG is — YPD, rather — is a force on the ground, is a representative group, and their voice will need to be heard in any kind of long-term solution to the situation in Syria.”

Toner had also said that PYD’s inclusion was important for a political solution to Syria’s turmoil and that “at some point, they have to be a part of this process.”

Washington regards the Kurdish YPG of Syrian Kurdistan as key ally against Islamic State and the most effective fighting force against IS in Syria and has provided them with arms, air support as well as the military advisers. The Kurdish militia has seized swathes of Syria from IS.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu shortly afterward responded, “Then, the US should invite the terrorist group Daesh, too”.

But Syrian opposition leader Mahmood Afandi did not echo the sentiment that PYD should be excluded in the talks.

“Unfortunately, Turkey has excluded the PYD. In the meantime, it has also conditioned that PYD should not be included in the ceasefire,” Afandi added. “Unfortunately, this creates barrier. PYD and all the other armed groups have to be present.”

Russia and Turkey have jointly announced that a new round of peace efforts will take place on January 23 in Astana for the first time after the failed Geneva negotiations last year.

In 2013, Syrian Kurds have established three autonomous zones, or Cantons of Jazeera, Kobani and Afrin and a Kurdish government across Syrian Kurdistan (northern Syria) in 2013. On March 17, 2016 Syria’s Kurds declared a federal region in Syrian Kurdistan.

Syrian Kurds on Dec. 30, 2016 have approved a blueprint for a system of federal government in Syrian Kurdistan, reaffirming their plans for autonomy in areas they have controlled during the civil war.

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