Kurdish party excluded from Syria peace talks, French minister says

The UN has not invited a major Syrian Kurdish party for peace talks between the government and the opposition planned in Geneva later this week, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday.

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura sent out invitations on Tuesday to the long-delayed talks, but without making public a list of those invited.

"De Mistura said he did not send an invitation to [PYD]," Fabius said, referring to the Kurdish Democratic Union Party whose insurgents have been instrumental in fighting Islamic State militants in Syria.

Fabius said the Western-backed Syrian opposition would lead the negotiations aimed at reaching a political solution to Syria's five-year conflict.

"We consider that, in addition to the Syrian government ... the group of Riyadh is representative and it's the one that should be the negotiator, which has been confirmed by ... de Mistura," Fabius told France Culture radio.

The Syrian opposition's Higher Negotiations Committee met for the second day in a row Wednesday in the Saudi capital Riyadh to adopt a final position on participation in the peace talks.

The committee insists it should be the only opposition delegation to the talks and is waiting for some "clarifications" from the United Nations, an opposition source told dpa without elaborating.

De Mistura has urged the parties to come to Geneva without preconditions and to negotiate a ceasefire during the talks scheduled to begin on Friday.

Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has backed the participation of the Kurds, who now control about as much territory as other rebel groups combined after wresting a swathe of northern Syria from Islamic State over the last year.

But Turkey has opposed including the Syrian Kurds in the talks because of their close links to Turkish Kurdish rebels, who have been conducting a separatist insurgency against Ankara for decades. 

The Syrian opposition has also rejected Kurdish participation, either as part of its delegation or as a third party, saying they are effectively allies of the Damascus government - a charge the Kurds deny.

Some observers have favoured Syrian Kurdish participation. 

"The PYD has been the most effective ground force against ISIS," the director of Human Rights Watch said in Istanbul, using an acronym for Islamic State.

"More to the point, Syrian Kurds are a significant minority in Syria. They deserve a voice at the table."

World powers hope that the Geneva negotiations will initiate a political process to resolve Syria's conflict that is estimated to have killed more than 250,000 people.

Last update: Wed, 27/01/2016 - 14:59

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