PYD won’t be invited to Syria talks, says French FM Fabius

PYD won’t be invited to Syria talks, says French FM Fabius

PYD won’t be invited to Syria talks, says French FM Fabius

AFP photo

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Jan. 27 that the United Nations’ special envoy to Syria had told him that he would not be inviting the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) to peace talks in Geneva scheduled to start on Jan. 29 and that a Riyadh-backed opposition group would lead the negotiations. 

“[Staffan] de Mistura sent invitations ... the PYD group was causing the most problems, and Mr de Mistura told me he had not sent them an invitation letter,” Reuters quoted Fabius as telling France Culture radio. 

Fabius said de Mistura had also confirmed to him that a Riyadh-formed opposition group would lead negotiations even though other opponents could also be present. 

“I spoke to Mr [Riyad] Hijab [opposition coordinator]... he will respond to de Mistura and Ban ki-Moon this morning. If I understand their position, they say yes to negotiations ... and at the same time want details to be given in terms of who is participating, what’s being done on the humanitarian front and what we are going to talk about.” 

France has been a key backer of moderate opposition forces battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has been advising them on how to prepare for proposed U.N.-backed talks expected to begin on Jan. 29 involving the Syrian government.   

Turkey opposes to the inclusion of PYD into the opposition side, as it sees the party and its armed wing, YPG, to be an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), with which it continues an armed clash since the mid-1980s. 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Jan. 26 that Turkey would boycott the Geneva talks if PYD would be invited to the table. 

But earlier in the day, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that the talks “cannot achieve the results we want, a definitive political resolution in Syria”, if the PYD is excluded.

PYD has not received invitation, says party’s head

The PYD is part of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), which was formed in December 2015 at a meeting in northeastern Syria with the stated aim of promoting a secular, democratic vision for the country. Haytham Manaa, who is the co-chairman of the SDC with Kurdish activist Ilham Ahmed, confirmed to Reuters he had been invited. 

But Syrian Kurdish officials have yet to be invited by the United Nations to attend the peace talks, Saleh Muslim, the leader of the PYD said on Jan. 26, although other people backed by Russia have been convened.

“Of course we would sincerely like to join, and also we think that if we don’t join it, this Geneva 3 will fail as happened in Geneva 2, where they excluded some sides,” Muslim told Reuters, referring to failed talks in 2014. 

“We are representing a large number of people on the ground ... so by excluding us they are not doing well for a political solution.”

Meanwhile, Manna told Reuters that he would not take part in peace talks in Geneva unless Muslim and Ahmed also get an invitation to participate. 

"I'll go with my friends or not [at all]. There is no compromise in this question," he said on Jan. 27

 "They propose now to us a delegation really which we can call the Russian delegation and I'm not ready to be a member of the Russian delegation. We have the right to have our own delegation," Manna said.

Opposition to decide for participating in peace talks 

Meanwhile, the Saudi-backed Syrian opposition said it would decide on Jan. 27 whether to take part in Geneva peace talks this week, saying it welcomed an invitation to the negotiations but was seeking clarifications from the United Nations. 

The Saudi-backed opposition, which groups armed and political opponents of al-Assad, had taken “a positive view” of the invitation received from de Mistura on Jan. 26, spokesman Salim al-Muslat said. 

“There are some questions. A letter was sent to the Secretary General of the United Nations and tomorrow there will be a reply to the letter of Mr. de Mistura,” Muslat said in an interview with Arabic news channel Arabiya al-Hadath, reported by Reuters. 

“We are not putting obstacles in front of the political solution. We want some explanations of some points that came in the invitation,” Muslat said.

The Saudi-backed opposition insists it should be the sole opposition delegation. But several opposition figures who do not belong to the body told AFP on Jan. 26 they had been invited to the talks.

The talks in Geneva are the latest international attempt to end Syria’s conflict, which has killed more than 260,000 people since it began with anti-government protests in March 2011.

They are part of an U.N.-backed plan agreed last year that envisages negotiations, followed by the creation of a transitional government, a new constitution, and elections within 18 months.

Delegations are expected to engage in “proximity talks,” rather than face-to-face discussions, which will run over six months.

The first round is expected to last between two and three weeks.

Syria’s regime has designated its U.N. envoy Bashar al-Jaafari as its chief negotiator, with its deputy foreign minister heading its delegation.