Russia, Kurds and the Syria peace talks

EPA/PHILIPPE DESMAZES / POOL

Syrian Ambassador to the UN and Head of the Government delegation Bashar al-Jaafari during a new round of negotiations between the Syrian government and UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, at the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland, 16 March 2016.

Russia, Kurds and the Syria peace talks


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Any hopes of a breakthrough at the Syria peace talks in Geneva remain slim, despite the weeks’ old “cessation of hostilities” and Russian President Vladimir Putin announcing his decision to pull out of Syria some of the Russian forces.

Even the United Nations mediator Staffan de Mistura named a Russian academic to his team of advisors – a nod to Russia’s importance in ending the fighting, reported the Reuters news agency.

Meanwhile, the Kurds appear to be taking matters into their own hands after being excluded from the talks in Geneva, which began on March 14, by drawing up plans to combine three Kurdish-led autonomous areas of northern Syrian into a federal arrangement.

This arrangement, which two senior Kurdish officials said they backed, would be sure to alarm neighbouring Turkey, which fears growing Kurdish sway in Syria is fuelling separatism among its own Kurdish minority, reported Reuters.

“Syria’s national unity and territorial integrity is fundamental for us. Outside of this, unilateral decisions cannot have validity,” a Turkish foreign ministry official said.

The Geneva talks are part of a diplomatic push launched with US-Russian support to end a conflict that has killed more than 250,000 people, created the world’s worst refugee crisis, and allowed for the rise of Islamic State.

On the second day of talks in Geneva on March 15, opposition negotiators demanded that the government detail its thoughts on a political transition in Syria and said there had been no progress on freeing detainees.

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