Syrian Kurdish KNC withdraws from Geneva talks in protest at opposition

Members of the Kurdish National Council (KNC) speak to reporters in Qamishli. (Photo: Ara News)

The Kurdish National Council (KNC), accusing the Syrian opposition’s High Negotiation’s Committee (HNC) of not including the Kurdish issue in discussions, withdrew from negotiations in Geneva on Wednesday.

Speaking to Ara News, Zara Salih, a senior official of the KNC-affiliated Yekiti (Unity) Party said, “The KNC delegates pulled out from these negotiations as a protest against the High Negotiations Committee because they rejected the Kurdish issue to be included in the [negotiations] schedule.

“The Syrian opposition are against federalism and constitutional Kurdish national rights, and they want to delay discussing Kurdish rights in the future,” he said.

The KNC had also criticised a non-paper by US Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, saying it ignored Kurdish rights in Syria and only mentioned local self administration, without any reference to Kurds.

However Salih said the problem wasn’t with the UN but with the opposition, which wants to reach an agreement with the Bashar al-Assad government and then refuse Kurdish rights.

While the KNC, as part of the Saudi and Turkish backed Syrian opposition, has enjoyed international recognition, it has not been able to foster any real authority and representation on the ground in Syria’s northern autonomous region Rojava.

The KNC has refused to recognise the administration in Rojava and accused the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) of monopolising power and not allowing the group, which is also affiliated to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Iraqi Kurdistan, of operating in the region.

Meanwhile the PYD, which has been blocked by Turkey from attending Geneva and Astana talks, has denounced the KNC of working with hostile forces such as Turkey to undermine the autonomous administration.

Commentators say the latest development has vindicated the PYD and parties allied to it. The PYD, which is ideologically aligned to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), declined in the first days of the Syrian crisis to join the opposition, because it refused to recognise Kurdish self determination.

While the KNC is calling for a Kurdish federal entity in Syria’s north, the PYD and groups affiliated to it have created a non-ethnic entity called the Democratic Federation of North Syria that encompasses a large swathe of land alongside the border with Turkey.

Both the Syrian government and opposition have rebuffed a federal solution to the Syrian crisis.