Resolving the Syrian conflict has proved particularly hard due to the sheer number of direct and indirect stakeholders involved; now reports have emerged that one of them, Turkey, could boycott the UN-sponsored peace talks scheduled to begin next week if the Syrian Kurds are present among the opposition.
Ankara has revealed as much in a private conversation with United Nations officials, UN-based diplomats told Foreign Policy. A Turkish delegation led by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu specified that Ankara could leave the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), which is overseeing the peace process in the war-torn Arab country, if the Syrian Kurdish negotiators come to Geneva next Monday.
For its part, Russia has long insisted that all groups, except terrorists, should take part in the intra-Syrian talks, seeing it as the only way to find a solution that would benefit the Arab country and would be genuinely backed by Damascus, as well as the opposition.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (R) shakes hands with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Istanbul, Turkey January 23, 2016, in this handout photo provided by the Presidential Palace
Washington seems to be making an effort to prevent Ankara from jeopardizing the talks.
Vice President Joe Biden came to Turkey on Saturday. In what appeared as a charm offensive on Biden's part, the US vice president reaffirmed that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is "a terror group plain and simple" and hailed Turkey's anti-Daesh efforts following a meeting with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
"We are increasingly making progress and that progress will be sped up as a result of our meeting today," Biden said, referring to the US and Turkey's "shared mission on the extermination" of Daesh.
Turkey's stance on the terrorist group that controls large parts of Iraq and Syria is not as clear, as the US vice president tried to present it. Ankara has long insisted that it is at the forefront of the anti-Daesh campaign, but has failed to deliver. For instance, it has not sealed the 60-mile stretch of border that Daesh militants and other terrorists use to smuggle weapons, supplies and fighters in and out of Syria.
People react as smoke billows from burning pallets set on fire during clashes between Turkish riot policemen and Kurdish protesters in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir on November 1, 2015 after first results of the Turkish general election showed a clear victory to the Justice and Development Party (AKP). Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon at Kurds who were protesting after the election appeared to deliver a clear victory to AKP, an AFP photographer said. Latest results say the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) won slightly over 10 percent of the vote, just enough to scrape into parliament.
Instead, Turkey has been largely focused on the Kurds. Turkish forces have launched a military operation against the PKK militants after a two-year-long ceasefire collapsed in mid-2015. The crackdown has sparked condemnation from human rights organizations. Earlier this month, more than 2,000 scholars from Turkey and elsewhere called the operation a massacre. Some of them were later arrested.
The Kurds, Turkey's largest ethnic minority, are striving for greater autonomy and recognition. The Kurdistan Workers' Party, founded in the late 1970s to promote the self-determination for the Kurdish community, is designated as a terrorist group in Turkey.
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