NEWS DESK- As the proposed Geneva II conference which is expected be held on Jan. 22 - not in Geneva, but in Montreux for lack of hotel space - draws nearer, Syria’s Kurds are scrambling to secure a seat at the negotiating table.
As long as the Assad regime and the opposition fail to come to an agreement, Syria’s Kurds will continue to consolidate their gains. Saleh Muslim, the co-chairman of the most influential Syrian Kurdish party, the Democratic Unity Party (PYD) said that “We will not allow Geneva II to become another Lausanne,” he added, thumping a chubby fist.
Muslim was referring to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne signed between the Allies and Turkey which defined the new borders of the modern Turkish state and divided "Kurdistan" into four parts. Lausanne famously scrapped earlier plans for an independent Kurdish state that were laid down in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres signed between the Allies and their vanquished Ottoman.
Muslim’s main concern is to cement the big gains made by Syria’s Kurds since the start of the civil conflict nearly three years ago. With the PYD and its military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), in the driver's seat, Syria’s 2 million or so Kurds have established their own interim administration in a Kurdish belt stretching from Derik in the northeast to Afrin in the northwest, bisected by Arab settlements in Raqqah and Aleppo provinces.
The PYD has been furiously lobbying to unify all of the Syrian Kurdish groups to take part in Geneva II in a delegation composed solely of Kurds and under the banner of the Supreme Kurdish Council that was established in 2012 under the sponsorship of Massoud Barzani, the president of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). “It is not so much the outcome of Geneva II but our status at the talks as a separate and equal entity that concerns us Kurds the most,” Muslim explained.
Now those differences are said to be melting as PYD representatives continue talks in the KRG capital Hewler with officials from PM Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), who are mediating on behalf of Muslim’s Syrian Kurdish rivals. These groups accuse the PYD of using intimidation tactics and concentrating power in its own hands. These allegations have been echoed by the KDP, whose relations with Muslim’s group have grown increasingly acrimonious over the past months.
Unusually, it was neither Muslim nor his decidedly weaker rivals but the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the umbrella group for the numerous wings of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which first commented on the meetings in Hewler. In a statement on Dec. 12, the KCK’s executive committee said that it fully supported the KDP-mediated talks and suggested that the Supreme Kurdish Council resume its functions, although squabbles between the PYD and its rivals rendered the agreement obsolete. “If a common stand is adopted on Geneva and the interim administration is strengthened as a result of these talks they will play a seminal role in the resolution of the Kurdish problem and in the democratization of Syria,” the KCK added.