Geneva II : Davutoğlu to shun Syrian Kurdish group not joining opposition

10 October 2013 /SERVET YANATMA, ANKARA – Zaman – Representatives from two different Syrian Kurdish groups have been visiting Turkey but Ankara appears to have distanced itself from one, which refuses to join the Syrian opposition fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu met with a delegation of the Syrian Kurdish National Council (KNC), a group that agreed to join the main Syrian opposition body, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, last month. Another group that is not part of the opposition coalition, the Syrian Kurdish Supreme Council, on the other hand, will be received by a Foreign Ministry diplomat, Ambassador Erdoğan İşcan, after it requested talks with ministry officials. Before the closed-door talks with Davutoğlu, the KNC delegation had talks on Tuesday with officials from the Foreign Ministry. According to diplomatic sources, during the meeting the two sides discussed the situation in Syria in light of the KNC’s decision to join the Syrian national coalition. The Turkish side expressed its support for the Kurdish group’s decision.

The Syrian Kurdish Supreme Council is an umbrella organization made up of Syrian Kurdish organizations and parties that include the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a group that Turkey considers the Syrian offshoot of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The groups came under the supreme council at a conference in Arbil in July 2012 hosted by the president of the regional administration in Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani. Under the deal that came to be known as the Arbil agreement, the PYD and the KNC joined forces under the Syrian Kurdish Supreme Council; however, disagreements between the PYD and the KNC remained. The establishment of a pro-Barzani faction within the KNC has reportedly worsened the dispute. The PYD had expressed skepticism when the KNC joined the main opposition coalition on Sep. 16, saying the move would divide the Syrian Kurds. The PYD refuses to join the anti-Assad opposition as the opposition has failed to accept Kurdish demands for autonomy in areas in northern Syria populated by Kurds.

It was not clear on Wednesday whether the Syrian Kurdish Supreme Council delegation that is due to meet with Ambassador İşcan on Thursday includes members from the PYD. Foreign Ministry officials said the talks are to focus on humanitarian aid to Syria.

PYD leader Saleh Muslim recently paid visits to Turkey for talks with Turkish officials. The talks were hailed as a breakthrough in relations with the PYD, the most powerful Syrian Kurdish group, as Ankara had previously avoided dialogue with the group. But whether the talks produced progress remains to be seen, as Muslim later complained about Turkish support for opposition forces fighting against the PYD in northern Syria.

During talks with the KNC, the Turkish side welcomed the KNC’s decision to join the Syrian coalition, saying this move will strengthen the coalition’s position at the Geneva II conference. The two sides also discussed the Syrian regime’s attacks on civilians, the destruction of chemical weapons owned by the regime, clashes taking place along Turkey’s border with Syria and the planned international conference aimed at bringing together representatives from the regime and opposition, dubbed Geneva II.The Kurdish group, for its part, said they will fight for the rights of Syrian Kurds in a united Syria as equal citizens of the country, adding that their decision to join the coalition is a reflection of this intention. KNC members thanked Turkey for its firm stance on the Syrian civil war and said that humanitarian aid means a lot to the Syrian people, including the Kurds in the country. The Syrian Kurdish group added that Turkey is in solidarity with Syrians during this difficult period they are going through.