Turkey Tells Syrian Opposition That PYD Should not Attend Geneva Talks

Turkey and Syrian political and armed opposition groups agreed in a meeting in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Friday to exclude the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) from the upcoming talks in Geneva later this month.

Ibrahim Biro, the head of the coalition of the Kurdish National Council (KNC or ENKS), who attended the meeting told Rudaw that Turkey has made it clear that the PYD will not be part of the opposition delegation in the fourth round of Geneva talks, a view shared by the Syrian opposition.

“The objection was not exclusively to the PYD,” Biro said. “The Moscow and Cairo parties, including the PYD who attended a meeting several days ago in Moscow, are not yet accepted among the opposition parties. The opposition looks at these parties as closer to the regime,” he explained, in reference to Syria opposition parties who are stationed in Cairo and Moscow.

The Saudi-backed High Negotiation Committee, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the KNC, armed groups who attended the Astana talks in January, and some Turkmen and Alawite groups attended the meeting in Turkey’s foreign ministry, meeting with the country’s undersecretary Ümit Yalçın.

Riad Hijab, the head of the HNC, and Enes el Abde, the president of the SNC were present at the meeting in an attempt to form an opposition delegation in Geneva.

The UN special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura earlier called on the opposition to provide a list of its delegation in days, otherwise, he warned, he may choose an “inclusive” list by himself, a move strongly opposed by both the Syrian political and armed opposition emphasizing that only the Syrian people have the right to choose their representatives.

The Ankara meeting took place upon a request from Turkey.

“The meeting was to form a delegation for Geneva in the coming days. There was an announcement from the Turkish foreign ministry that if Geneva talks were to be held on Feb. 20, there should be a broad opposition delegation,” Biro said.

He said that only those parties who previously took part in the Geneva talks, in addition to the armed groups who attended the Astana talks would be part of the opposition, noting that the Kurdish KNC will have at least one member in the delegation.

The ruling PYD, which is the dominant Kurdish party in the self-autonomous region of northern Syria, its armed wing (YPG), and the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were left out of previous negotiations in Geneva as well as Astana. Their exclusion has mainly been because of objections from Turkey, who considers these groups an inseparable part of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Russia, Iran, and Turkey, hosts of the Astana talks aimed at ending the years-long Syrian civil war, will hold their first “Joint Operational Group” meeting on Monday in the Kazakh capital with a focus on establishing mechanisms to monitor a shaky ceasefire and separating the extremist Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as the al-Nusra Front, from the opposition, the Russian Defense Ministry and Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry confirmed on Thursday.