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Op-Ed: Geneva III Will Fail Without Syria’s Kurds

The article below was written by the editors of the Kurdish Project. To submit your own op ed, fill out a submission form here.

The Geneva III peace talks are scheduled for this weekend, but one key player in the Syrian conflict has yet to be invited to the table — the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (which goes by the acronym PYD).

The Geneva III peace talks are the third attempt to bring a diplomatic solution to the civil war between the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition. The first two rounds of peace talks were Geneva I in 2012, and Geneva II in 2014. Both were unsuccessful.

While the Kurds were not in control of nearly as much territory during the first two rounds of peace talks, the Kurdish PYD, and it’s armed wing, the YPG (or People’s Protection Units) is now in control of an estimated 400 miles of the Syrian-Turkish border.

Why is the PYD excluded from Geneva III?

The PYD and its military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) have been excluded from Geneva III due largely to the complaints of Turkey, who points to the relationship between the Kurdish PYD in Syria, and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) in Turkey. The Turkish government is currently embroiled in a counterterrorism campaign against PKK rebels, who have declared a region of ‘self-rule’ in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeast.

In addition to its military campaign within its own borders, the Turkish military has been shelling YPG positions in Syria since the Fall of 2015. These are the same YPG positions that are defending Syria, and the rest of the free world against the terrorist group known as Daesh, ISIS or ISIL.

Turkey’s shelling of the Kurdish YPG in Syria has prevented the Kurds from crossing west of the Euphrates River, where  Daesh fighters are dug in. If allowed to cross over the Euphrates, the Kurdish YPG would be able to roll back Daesh, seizing control of over 50 miles of border that Daesh has been using to traffic foreign fighters, oil and black market goods in and out of Turkey.

Exclude the Kurds, Enable ISIS

The purpose of the Geneva III peace talks is to diplomatically negotiate the future of the Syrian Arab Republic. Although ISIS’ bloodthirsty diplomats will not be at the table this weekend, Geneva’s peace brokers must take the threat of Daesh into consideration when creating a roadmap for the future of Syria.

The future of Syria depends on the Kurdish PYD’s ability to counter and roll back the Islamic State. Failure to include the PYD in the Syrian Peace talks is a failure by the international community to both recognize the threat of the Islamic State terrorist group, as well as to recognize one of the most important groups protecting Syria against the Islamic State.

It is clear that Turkey does not want the Kurds to have a seat at the table in Geneva, but as long as Turkey continues its anti-Kurdish campaign within its borders, the UN should not be beholden to Turkey’s demands.

The sooner the Kurds come to the negotiation table, the sooner we can defeat the Daesh terrorist group, and the sooner we can come to a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Syria.

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