Iraqi Kurdish leader sees little gains at Syria conference
BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shakes hands with Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government President Masoud Barzani in Arbil, Jan. 14. REUTERS photoIraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani said Jan. 21 he expected very little from the Geneva II peace conference on Syria and warned of the dangers of extremist groups gaining ground.
"The Geneva II conference will be the opportunity for the Syrian people to decide their own destiny but personally, I am not very optimistic," Barzani told the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament.
The situation in neighbouring Syria is "very worrying for Iraq in general and Kurdistan province in particular because everything which happens in Syria has a direct knock-on effect," he said.
Groups linked to Al-Qaeda were very active in Syria and were a "direct menace" to the Kurdish area, he said.
"In no case can it be allowed that such terrorist groups gain power in Syria," he said, warning that the groups making up the rebel FSA seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad did not appear well placed to take his place.
In September, the capital of Iraq's Kurdish region Arbil was hit by several attacks, blamed on extremist groups fighting in Syria.
The Kurdish autonomous region has backed Kurds in Syria against the extremists and has taken in some 200,000 refugees from the bloody conflict.
The Geneva II conference, which opens Jan. 22 in Switzerland, is aimed at agreeing a political transition in Syria but the talks promise to be difficult, with the rebels divided and suspicious and Assad showing no signs he will step down of his own wish.