Turkey on Tuesday said it strongly opposed the Syrian Kurdish group Democratic Union Party (PYD) taking part in UN-backed talks planned for later this week seeking a political solution to the Syrian crisis.
“We are categorically against the YPG and PYD, who oppress the Kurds, sitting at the table,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told ruling party lawmakers in parliament.
Turkey considers the PYD and its military wing the People’s Protection Units (YPG) to be offshoots of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which wages an armed insurgency against Ankara.
Davutoglu said he was not against Syrian Kurdish representatives joining the talks, deeming their presence at the table as a “necessity”.
But he did not specify which other Syrian Kurdish groups he would like to see involved at Friday’s meeting.
Referring to the PYD, the premier said: “A terrorist organisation joining the ranks of the opposition during the talks is unacceptable from our viewpoint.”
“The PYD, which cooperates with the (Syrian) regime, cannot represent the rightful fight of the Syrian people,” said the Turkish premier.
Turkey has long accused the PYD of being allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a secret pact to carve out an autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria. The Syrian Kurdish group rejects this.
Last month, several key opposition bodies, including rebel groups, formed a coalition known as the High Negotiations Committee to participate in the mooted talks in Geneva.
But the coalition excludes Syria’s main Kurdish party the PYD and a range of other opposition figures.
US Vice President Joe Biden, who visited Turkey at the weekend, said that the PKK was a terror group “plain and simple” but made no such denunciation of the YPG which has emerged as an American ally against jihadists on the ground in Syria.
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday insisted that UN-backed Syria talks would not be successful if Kurdish representatives were not invited.
Russia and Turkey are currently experiencing their worst crisis in relations in years over the shooting down on November 24 of one of Moscow’s warplanes by Ankara on the border with Syria.
Moscow has also taken steps in the last months to revive its Soviet-era ties with Kurdish groups, notably holding talks with PYD leader Salih Muslim in a move that alarmed Ankara.
The antagonism between Ankara and Moscow has emerged as a major obstacle to finding peace in Syria, with Turkey seeking the ousting of President Bashar al-Assad and Russia his major ally.