Syria Kurds leave Geneva without peace talks invites: Sources

AFP , Saturday 30 Jan 2016

Syrian Kurdish figures hoping to take part in fragile UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva have left the Swiss city after not receiving invitations to negotiations, sources told AFP on Saturday.

Saleh Muslim, head of the powerful Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), had travelled to Geneva last week in the hopes his movement would have a seat at the table.

But he and his advisors left Geneva late Friday, a member of his party's team in Switzerland said.

"Yes, we left Geneva because we did not get invitations," the member said, speaking anonymously because he was not authorised to speak to the press.

"We will not commit to any decision that comes out of Geneva, including a ceasefire agreement," he added.

And Ilham Ahmad, the Kurdish co-head of an Arab-Kurdish joint council in Syria, told AFP she had also left the Swiss city on Friday night after not being invited to talks.

The participation of Kurdish parties has been one of the sharpest points of contention among warring parties in Syria and their respective backers.

Kurdish groups like the PYD and their armed wing, the People's Protection Units, insist that their participation is key to the success of any political process aimed at ending the nearly five-year war rocking Syria.

The PYD has been one of the most successful fighting forces against the extremist Islamic State group, clearing jihadists out of swathes of territory in northern Syria.

"Without us, this process will have the same fate as the last round of Geneva talks" in 2014, the PYD source told AFP.

Russia, which has helped President Bashar al-Assad's forces regain territory since starting air strikes in late September, also says that the Kurds must take part in any talks.

But the mainstream Syrian opposition body the High Negotiations Committee -- and its Turkish and Saudi backers -- have strongly objected to the PYD's participation.

Part of the HNC's own delegation to UN-administered talks, which includes at least one Kurdish member, is set to arrive in Geneva late Saturday.

The talks are the latest attempt at putting an end to Syria's nearly five-year war, which has left more than 260,000 people dead.

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