Geneva talks reveal rift amongst Syrian Kurdish opposition KNC

(right to left) KDP-I USA Representative Arash Saleh, KNC foreign relations head Siyamend Haco and KNC leader Ibrahim Biro (far left) in Washington, March 2017, (Twitter)

The Kurdish National Council (KNC), which is part of the Saudi-backed High Negotiation Committee (HNC) and has two representatives at the Geneva talks on Syria, has been criticised for not doing enough to bring the Kurdish question to the table during discussions, one of its own leading members has said.

Siyamend Haco, a member of the KNC Committee for External Affairs  told Rudaw that both representatives had so far failed putting Kurds on the agenda “because they were not able to put pressure on the Syrian opposition to include the Kurdish issue in the document.”

“The non-paper’s reader must assume Syria to be solely Arabic. The first principle, as it speaks of Syria as “one people”, can’t be understood differently.”

Rudaw reports that the KNC has split into two camps with one side calling for withdrawal from the Geneva talks unless Kurdish demands are met, while the other wants to remain as the issue could be brought to dialogue and eventually be resolved.

Behind the split is the lack of guarantees of Kurdish national rights in an opposition document on Syrian political solution issued by Staffan de Mistura in March, which the KNC rejected on Friday.

Hajo also said that the KNC had sent a letter to Mistura one day ahead of the current round of talks, lamenting the failure of the Syrian opposition to include the Kurdish issue in the document. De Mistura’s office replied that the Kurdish delegation stood silent and never put forward any demands.

While the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) – the leading party in the autonomous administration (Rojava) in northern Syria – has called for a non-ethnic federal region, the opposition KNC, which is backed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Turkey, has called for the creation of a federal Kurdistan region in Syria.

While the PYD has not been invited to talks in Geneva and Astana due to a Turkish veto, the KNC, which has no real authority in the region, has attended talks.

The fifth round of Geneva talks is expected to last until the end of March, however the contravention of the ceasefire has put any kind of lasting solution in danger, experts have said.