Syria Kurds want to take part in Geneva peace talks

AFP , Sunday 26 May 2013

Syrian Kurds, a sizable minority group in Syria, voice interest in joining US and Russian bid to end conflict in Syria in June

Syrian Kurds, long oppressed under President Bashar al-Assad's regime, said Sunday they want to take part in a mooted Geneva peace conference.

A meeting of Syria's main opposition National Coalition in Istanbul remained in deadlock Sunday over participation in the talks and the inclusion of new members.

However Syria's Kurds, who make up about 15 percent of the population, said they wanted to take part even if they did so independently.

"We want to go, either as members of the Coalition or (independently) as representatives of the Supreme Kurdish Council," Sherwan Ibrahim, of Syria's PYD (Democratic Union Party) said on the sidelines of the talks.

"We have suffered from the regime's oppression for decades. Our struggle began long before the Syrian revolt started," added Sherwan Ibrahim, also a member of the umbrella Kurdish Supreme Committee.

Bahzad Ibrahim of the Kurdish National Council also expressed his desire to attend the talks.

Since the beginning of Syria's uprising more than two years ago, the Kurds have mostly tried to stay out of the fighting, stopping both rebel and regime forces from entering their areas.

However in some areas, such as the Sheikh Maqsud district of Aleppo city, rebels and Kurdish groups have joined together to fight forces loyal to Assad.

The National Coalition talks entered an unscheduled fourth day on Sunday, with members stalled by conflicting regional and international influences and unable to agree on key issues.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Sunday his government would take part in the Geneva peace conference, proposed by the United States and Russia to try and end a war that has killed more than 90,000 people.

Syria's Kurds inhabit areas rich in resources, but have long been marginalised under Assad's regime, accused by rights watchdogs of cracking down on the minority group.

Since the start of the conflict, the Syrian army has withdrawn from most Kurdish areas in the north of the country.

Kurdish representatives in Istanbul, not officially taking part in the conference, said members were wary of allowing rebel troops into their areas for fear of regime retaliation.

The Kurdish Supreme Committee, which was set up in July 2012, is not a member of the Coalition.

Short link: