Syria peace talks: Turkey will not allow Kurdish groups to join meeting of those opposed to Assad regime

Turkish PM says the participation of YPG represents a 'direct threat' to his country

Turkey will not allow Kurdish groups from northern Syria to take part in peace talks alongside other groups opposed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the country’s Prime Minister has warned.

Ahmet Davutoglu said the group known as People’s Defence Units or YPG, seen by the US as one of the most effective fighting forces against Isis, was too closely linked to the outlawed PKK terrorist group for it to join talks on the opposition side. It represented a “direct threat to Turkey”, he told reporters during a two-day visit to London which concluded on Tuesday.

The hard line from the Turkish government is a further obstacle to the Syrian peace talks which are scheduled to begin in Geneva on Monday, with all the main parties in the region taking part. 

Russia, a key ally of President Assad, is demanding that the Kurdish group take part in the talks, which will be held under the umbrella of the United Nations. Mr Davutoglu said the YPG would only be allowed to take part “on the regime side”.

Advances on the ground by Syrian government forces have meanwhile emboldened Damascus. “The regime is trying to achieve as much as possible on the ground before the peace talks, which will be hollow,” Zakaria Ahmad, a spokesman for a moderate rebel faction operating near the Turkish border, told the Associated Press.

Rocket hits school in Turkey

As a result, diplomats are becoming doubtful that the talks will begin next week. Their convenors say they will not issue invitations to opposition groups until all the main countries involved – including Saudi Arabia and Russia as well as Turkey – have agreed on who should take part.

The talks are meant to launch a political process to end the civil war that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and forced millions of refugees to flee abroad. Under the plan, a new constitution would be drawn up and elections held in 18 months time.

There are major unresolved differences including over the future of Mr Assad. Mr Davutoglu said he should go “as early as possible, because Syrians do not want to see him in that post”. As long as Mr Assad remained, he added, the millions who have fled will not return. After the formation of a transitional government, he said, there should be a timetable for a transformation where “any Syrian can run the country based on the support of the Syrian people”.

Libya announces unity government

Representatives of Libya’s rival factions negotiating through a UN-brokered process announced that they have formed a unity government aimed at stemming the chaos that has engulfed the country. 

The Unity Presidential Council has agreed on a 32-member cabinet, drawn of representatives from across the country. 

Libya slid into chaos following the 2011 killing of Muammar Gaddafi. Since 2014, its divisions only increased, splitting it into two governments and parliaments: the globally recognised version in the east and an Islamist-backed one in Tripoli. The line-up of the new cabinet was approved by seven out of nine members of the presidential council, after two walked out. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called the cabinet announcement an “essential step” and said Libya was now at a “critical juncture”.

AP

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