PYD will not participate in Syria peace talks: US
Fighters from the Democratic Forces of Syria prepare themselves ahead of what they said was an offensive against Islamic Stateof Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants to take control of Tishrin dam, south of Kobani, Syria December 26, 2015. REUTERS PhotoThe United States has said the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) was not expected to participate in the U.N.-brokered Syria peace talks on Jan. 29 in Geneva.
“The U.N. hasn’t announced its list of invitees or those extended in an advisory role, but our understanding is that the PYD won’t be participating in this week’s talks,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner during his daily press briefing on Jan. 27.
The peace talks were originally to be held on Jan. 25 in Geneva but were delayed to Jan. 29 after it could not be decided on who would join the opposition group at the negotiation table against the Syrian government. United Nations envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, issued the invitations to the parties on Jan. 26, without disclosing who had been invited to the talks.
He said the U.S. stands by the Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC), its current composition and the decision by de Mistura to invite additional representatives to participate in this process.
“The exclusion of the PYD, at least in this initial round of talks, was a decision taken by de Mistura and his people, and it was partly a reflection of these meetings to define the Syrian opposition and basically, you know, choose who among the Syrian opposition would represent them going forward into these talks,” he said.
“We respect that process.”
Turkey opposes the inclusion of PYD, and its military wing, the People’s Defense Units (YPG), on the opposition side at the Syria peace talks, as Turkey perceives the PYD as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), with which it has been in an armed conflict since the mid-1980s. The PKK is designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.
As a member of the International Syria Support Group and a stakeholder in this process, Toner stressed that Turkey obviously had its “very real and almost existential concerns” about peace and stability in Syria as the ongoing crisis threatens Turkey directly on its border.
But the fact that the U.S. does not consider PYD a terrorist organization raised differences between Turkey and the U.S. during Syrian peace talks last October.
Sealing the Turkish-Syria border
Toner added that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)-controlled 98-kilometer stretch of the Turkey-Syria border was a “persistent problem” and that the U.S. was absolutely convinced that Turkey understood “the magnitude of the problem.”
“We’re absolutely convinced that they want to stop that flow of foreign fighters; that they need to seal up their borders. It’s a challenge and we’re working with them,” he said.
Turkey is attempting to finish securing its southeastern border with Syria, which has been used by ISIL for smuggling oil and attracting foreign fighters.
Toner also said that Syrian opposition groups should attend the talks in Geneva but “without preconditions.”
The opposition had originally demanded prerequisites to attending the meetings, including a halt to attacks on civilian areas before any negotiations began.
“We believe it should seize this opportunity to test the regime’s willingness and intentions, and expose before the entire world which parties are serious about a potential peaceful political transfer in Syria and which are not,” Toner said.