Turkey to follow Syria talks after PYD ‘fait accompli’

Turkey to follow Syria talks after PYD ‘fait accompli’

Turkey to follow Syria talks after PYD ‘fait accompli’

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Attempts to include the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in U.N.-backed talks on Syria planned for later this week were a last minute fait accompli, a senior Turkish official has said, adding Turkey would be represented “at the highest level” during the planned talks in Geneva.

“As a matter of fact, the groups that would participate in the negotiations were identified long ago,” İbrahim Kalın, the spokesperson for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said on Jan. 27, referring to the Higher Negotiating Committee (HNC) backed by Saudi Arabia and formed in Riyadh last month.

“While the PYD issue didn’t come on the agenda along that process, that’s to say, while it was dismissed although it came on the agenda, now trying again to get the PYD to join the Geneva talks with a last minute move is against the endeavors and negotiations conducted so far,” Kalın said, speaking to reporters at a press conference.

Ankara considers the PYD and its military wing, the People’s Defense Units (YPG), to be offshoots of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and it has threatened to boycott the talks if the PYD is represented.

“Claims of representing Syrian Kurds by a group which creates a de facto situation there, puts pressure on other groups, hasn’t stood by the Syrian opposition so far, resumes shady relations with the regime and continues its dirty relationship with the PKK terror organization is not something acceptable. Since this is also a matter which has been accepted by other countries, but not only by Turkey, as of yesterday [Jan. 26], the final decision has been made and negotiations will begin within the framework of these groups that I mentioned. We will be represented at the highest level there,” Kalın said.

Senior Turkish officials, speaking with Hürriyet Daily News, elaborated that Turkey would have a representative in Geneva in order to “follow” the planned talks, although they will not be a party in the talks.

“Mr. [U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan] de Mistura personally asked other key parties like Turkey, such as the United States and France, to follow the talks at a director level too,” the same officials, speaking under condition of anonymity, said on Jan. 27. “If a summit is to be held upon the talks, then Turkey will of course be represented at the highest level, probably by a minister,” the officials said.

Turkey plans to send Can Dizdar, a senior diplomat in the Foreign Ministry’s Department for Middle East Affairs, to Geneva, sources said.

Hours before Kalın’s remarks, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Jan. 27 that the United Nations’ special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura had told him that he would not be inviting the PYD to the peace talks. 

“[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 , which was to decide on Jan. 27 whether or not to join the talks, would lead negotiations even though other opponents could also be present.

Khawla Mattar, a spokeswoman for de Mistura, said Jan. 27 that only Syrians had been invited to peace talks in Geneva, in an apparent contradiction to Turkey’s suggestion that it would be included. 
On Jan. 26, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Ankara would “boycott” the talks set to open on Jan. 29, if the PYD was at the negotiating table.

Mattar said there was “no plan to invite” non-Syrians when asked about the possible inclusion of observer delegations from Turkey, Russia, the United States or France.

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.”