Turkey gives nod to ‘Kurds but not the YPG’ in Syria talks
Turkey supports the participation of Kurds in talks on the future of Syria but is against the participation of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said, amid reports that other Syrian groups could be invited to a planned conference on Syria’s future.
“The YPG is not the sole representative of the Kurds. Actually it represents only a small portion of them,” Çavuşoğlu said in an interview with private broadcaster NTV on Dec. 12.
Ankara sees the YPG as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), therefore a terrorist group.
“[The YPG] forces people into joining its armed group. Kurds currently cannot go back to the 20 percent of the Syrian lands controlled by the YPG. We are not against our Kurdish brothers, we stand with them,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding that some 300,000 Kurds have escaped to Turkey from the Syrian war.
When asked if “Kurdish groups other than the YPG” could join a conference on Syria’s future to be organized by Russia, Çavuşoğlu sounded positive.
“Iran is also against the YPG’s presence in Syria. We have handed the list of those who represent the Kurds to Russia,” he said.
His remarks followed reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during their meeting in Ankara on Dec. 11 that Syrian Kurdish groups not including the YPG could be invited to the planned conference.
Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition has claimed that the Bashar al-Assad government delegation to the Geneva peace talks has produced a number of new conditions, making it difficult to move forward.
Opposition spokesman Yahya Aridi said on Dec. 12 that the Damascus delegation told U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura they would not negotiate directly. He said de Mistura told them about the government’s stance.
Aridi says the opposition delegates “consider this to be a precondition.” There was no immediate response from the government team in Switzerland.
Syrian opposition and government delegates arrived back in Geneva for a new round of U.N.-sponsored talks after a short break. The government delegation has protested the opposition’s insistence on the absence of President Bashar Assad from any future transition period.
The opposition has been calling for the indirect peace talks to become direct.
Separately, Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu said Ankara had no current plans to reduce the number of its soldiers at the Bashiqa army base in northern Iraq, while responding to a question.
Commenting on reports that the Iraqi army and the YPG have decided to work together in securing the borders, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey would “discuss the issue with Baghdad.”
“We know Iraq is also disturbed by the YPG,” he added.