Syrian Kurdish-Arab alliance halts Geneva participation

A protester waves a Kurdish flag during a protest outside the offices of European Parliament in Athens on Saturday, Jan. 18 2013.

A protester waves a Kurdish flag during a protest outside the offices of European Parliament in Athens on Saturday, Jan. 18 2013.


A coalition of Syrian Kurds and Arabs will not participate in fresh peace talks in Geneva after six of its delegates, mostly Kurds, were excluded from negotiations, a member said Monday.

“We decided on Sunday night to suspend our participation in negotiations so long as the five Kurdish and one Turkman delegates from our list do not receive invitations from UN mediator Staffan de Mistura,” Haytham Manna told AFP.

Manna is the co-president of the Syrian Democratic Council, an alliance formed in December as the political branch of the Kurdish-Arab fighting force known as the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The SDC has sought to take part in the Geneva talks despite being excluded from the main umbrella opposition group known as the High Negotiations Committee.

Manna said the SDC and other opposition figures who do not belong to the HNC had submitted a list of 35 representatives they wanted invited to the talks.

In addition to SDC members, the list included former Syrian minister Qadri Jamil, and secular activist Randa Kassis.

But invites were only issued to 29 of the 35, Manna said.

“Six were informed that their participation would be examined later,” Manna said, specifying that the six were five Kurdish representatives and one Turkman, all from the SDC.

“We decided on Sunday night in Geneva with our Kurdish friends… to suspend our participation.”

He said the discussions on Sunday night had involved Saleh Muslim, head of Syria’s most powerful Kurdish party, the Democratic Union Party.

Despite its sway on the ground and the role of its military wing, which has been key in fighting ISIS, the Democratic Union Party has been excluded from the talks.

Turkey considers the party and its military branch, the People’s Protection Units, to be affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party, which has waged an armed insurgency against Ankara.

And others inside the main Syrian umbrella group considers the Kurds to be too close to the regime in Damascus and have refused to engage in a joint delegation with them.

The talks in Geneva are the latest bid to end Syria’s conflict, nearly five years after it began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

But they have stalled over the make-up of the opposition as well as its insistence that U.N. resolutions on lifting sieges and protecting civilians be implemented before talks start.


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