Russia-backed Syrian congress postponed

By REUTERS
November 5, 2017 12:43
1 minute read.
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ISTANBUL - A Russian-sponsored Syrian peace congress scheduled for November 18 has been postponed and the main Syrian Kurdish group will not be invited if it is held later after objections by Turkey, President Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman said on Sunday.

Asked for comment, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman referred to her regular weekly briefing on Thursday in which she said Moscow was working on "dates, venue, the participants' lineup". The list of expected participants, which included the Kurds, has since been deleted from the ministry's website.

The head of the Kurdish PYD party indicated last week that it favored attending the peace congress in what would be the first time the Kurds participate in a major diplomatic push to end the war in Syria.

"Russia told us that the meeting has now been postponed and that the PYD will not be invited," Erdogan's spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, told broadcaster NTV in an interview.

The PYD has emerged as one of the most powerful players in Syria since the war began in 2011 and has said it was invited to the meeting in the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi.

Turkey views the PYD and its armed YPD affiliate as offshoots of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a decades-long insurgency in Turkey and is designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and European Union.

The YPG controls swathes of northern Syria where Kurdish-led local administrations have been set up and is allied to the United States as the core of the Syrian Defence Forces (SDF) that drove Islamic State militants from much of northern Syria.

The main rebel groups fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad are planning to boycott the peace congress in Sochi, which Moscow says will focus on a new constitution.

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