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Russia calls for Kurds’ participation in Syria talks

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a meeting with his Chinese counterpart in Moscow, on March 11, 2016. (AFP photo)

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called on the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to invite minority Kurds to participate in the next round of Syria peace talks.

"I am convinced that Staffan de Mistura should take such a decision," Lavrov said at a joint news conference with his Chinese counterpart in Moscow on Friday.

"Launching negotiations without the participation of this group would be a sign of weakness from the international community," said Lavrov.

He also warned that holding talks without Kurds would be "a most serious infringement of the rights of a large and significant group living in Syria."

Lavrov further said the Kurds are "allies both of the US coalition and Russia", criticizing Ankara for “blocking the invitation of Kurds from the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).”

Turkey regards the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and PYD as allies of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been fighting for an autonomous Kurdish region inside Turkey since the 1980s.

This comes as talks between Syrian government delegates and the Saudi-backed so-called opposition group, known as the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), are set to resume in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 14.

The HNC said in a statement on Friday that it will participate in the talks as part of its "commitment to international efforts to stop the bloodshed and find a political solution."

A source close to the Damascus government had earlier confirmed that its delegation would attend the talks.

The UN-brokered peace negotiations collapsed early in February after the HNC left the talks amid the Syrian army’s Russian-backed gains against militants on several fronts.

An agreement on the cessation of hostilities, brokered by Russia and the US, has taken effect in Syria since February 27.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. According to a February report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people, injured 1.9 million others, and displaced nearly half of the country’s pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders. However, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the war has left around 270,000 people dead.

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