Turkey disagrees with Russia over inclusion of Kurdish PYD in Syria talks

Friday 22/01/2016
Is Russia playing the Kurdish card, amid free-fall in relations?

ANKARA - Turkey on Tuesday said it strongly opposes the Syrian Kurdish group Democratic Union Party (PYD) taking part in UN-backed talks planned for later this week seeking a political solution to the Syrian crisis.

"We are categorically against the YPG and PYD sitting at the table," Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told ruling party's lawmakers in parliament.

Turkey considers the PYD and its military wing the People's Protection Units (YPG) to be offshoots of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which wages an armed insurgency against Ankara.

Earlier on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted that UN-backed Syria talks planned to start later this week will not be successful if Kurdish representatives are not invited.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura was due to send out invites Tuesday to opposition groups to attend the talks after negotiations were delayed several days to Friday due to a "stalemate" over the makeup of the delegations.

Lavrov said that one of the international powers backing the Syria talks -- most likely meaning Turkey -- was objecting to the participation of the Kurds and PYD in particular.

"Without this party, without this participant the talks cannot achieve the results that we want, a definitive political resolution in Syria," Lavrov told journalists at his main annual press conference.

Lavrov said, however, that Russia would not "veto" the talks if the Kurds were not invited and that it was up to the UN envoy de Mistura to decide which opposition groups would be asked to attend.

Last month, several key opposition bodies, including rebel groups, formed a coalition known as the High Negotiations Committee to participate in the mooted talks.

But the coalition excludes Syria's main Kurdish party the PYD and a range of other opposition figures.

Ties between Russia and Turkey are in tatters over the shooting down last year of one of Moscow's jets by Ankara along its border with Syria.

Russia has been running a bombing campaign in Syria since last September in support of its longstanding ally President Bashar al-Assad, who is fiercely opposed by Turkey.