The Kurdish National Council (KNC) who has two representatives at the Syria Geneva talks has to look into the mirror for ignoring the Kurdish question in the talks that seek a negotiated end to the six-year long war in Syria, the UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan De Mistura reportedly told the Kurds, according to a member of the KNC’s External Affairs Committee who calls for the replacement of the two Kurdish delegates.
The fifth round of Geneva talks began on January 23, and is expected to continue to the end of this month.
The KNC is taking part in the talks as part of the Saudi-backed High Negotiation Committee (HNC).
De Mistura has said that on the agenda are governance – political transition, the constitution and elections – adding to that counterterrorism at the request of Damascus.
“So far both Kurdish representatives Abdulhakim Bashar, Fuad Aliko have failed in the opposition delegation,” Siyamand Hajo, a member of the KNC external affairs told Rudaw, “because they were not able to put pressure on the Syrian opposition to include the Kurdish issue in the document.”
Hajo said that the KNC has sent a letter to de Mistura a day before the current talks in this regard complaining about ignoring the plight of the Kurds who are the second ethnicity in Syria, but he was told that the two Kurdish delegates stand silent and do not bring up the Kurdish cause at all.
“The office of De Mistura told me that the Kurdish delegation do not have any demands in the official meetings and are silent,” Hajo said, “They are just listening to the suggestions from the delegations of Syrian government and the opposition. If the representatives of the Kurds happen not to have any suggestions, [the UN envoy] therefore is not responsible for it.”
Bashar denied they were not able to raise the Kurdish cause, adding that “We [the Syrian opposition] has not yet agreed on the agenda for the meetings. If the political transition process was discussed, then the Kurdish issue will become part of it.”
Bashar also denied that the Kurdish question has not surfaced in the document, noting that “the documents clearly state that Syria is the homeland of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and others. The rights of Kurds should be respected and put an end to the racism against the Kurds in Syria.”
He said that those who criticize the current delegates are trying to put an end to the Kurdish representation as part of the Syrian opposition, and as the result they want to push the KNC towards the ruling Democratic Union Party (PYD), with whom the KNC does not have easy relations, and the Syrian regime.
A senior KNC member, who asked not to be named, told Rudaw that the KNC has now split into two camps with one side calling for withdrawal from the Geneva talks unless Kurdish demands are met, while the other think that the issue could be resolved through dialogue.
Eva Maria Belser, an expert on the comparative constitutional law, who also helped the KNC to propose suggestions to a future Syrian constitution, essentially demanding federalism in Syria, says that the opposition document does not guarantee the Kurdish national rights.
“The opposition document does not include any notable rights for the Kurds,” Besler said, “It gives the Kurds only a number of cultural rights to the Kurds. That is why Kurds should insist on their national rights and include it in the document, and to make the Kurdish language an official language.”
She also added that in one section, the document mentions the idea of majority, which means that they can sideline the Kurds in the future and any time they want as Kurds make up only 15 percent of the population in Syria.
The KNC, comprised of about a dozen Kurdish parties, is the main Kurdish Syrian opposition party in Syria. They have attended the Geneva and Astana talks, but do not have any real authority on the ground in northern Syria where the PYD has created the Rojava administration, a self-autonomous region.
The PYD has not been invited to either Syrian talks. The party says that they do not accept any agreements reached in these negotiations as the result.