SDF not part of Syria peace talks: UN envoy
The U.S.-backed SDF – the militant group in Syria dominated by the PKK’s Syrian arm YPG – is not part of ongoing U.N.-led talks to end the Syrian conflict, the U.N. said on Feb. 28.
The U.N.’s Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen told reporters at the U.N.’s New York headquarters “Syrian Kurds are already part of the process,” but said the SDF “are not part of the political process so far.
“I think this could turn into a challenge in the future so it is important that we address this issue in a proper way,” he said after briefing the Security Council for the first time since taking his post last year.
Turkey deems the YPG as an offshoot of the illegal PKK which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.
In his remarks to the council, Pedersen stressed the need to create a “common forum” for interested nations to “engage seriously” on resolving key issues to end the conflict.
In addition, he said going forward his top priorities will include ensuring “sustained dialogue” with the Syrian regime and the opposition, to see additional actions taken through the political process being carried out by Turkey, Russia and Iran to address persons detained in the conflict, to start a constitutional committee “as soon as possible.”
Of long-elusive efforts to form the committee to draft a new Syrian Constitution, Pedersen said “we are making progress but there are still unresolved issues, and we are working on the package, we need to agree on the names, but we also need to agree on the rules of procedures.”
Pedersen said he expects to return to Damascus in the next couple of weeks for further consultations.
Pedersen’s first briefing to the U.N. Security Council indicated a much broader approach to trying to end the war and restore peace to Syria than his predecessor, Staffan de Mistura, who spent his last year trying unsuccessfully to form a constitutional committee.
The new envoy noted that key international players “express emphatic support for a political settlement for Syria” and agree on the “need to counter terrorist groups.”
“They share an appreciation of the realities of 2019 and that real diplomacy is needed to address them,” Pedersen said, noting that currently “different formats make different contributions.”
Pedersen said he believes “there are real possibilities for strengthening international support,” and a need to be “creative.”
“If we are to see how issues can be unblocked and how to help the parties move in a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned process, a common forum where key states engage seriously on those issues may be needed,” he said without elaborating.