However the PYD (Democratic Union Party), one of the main non-state actors involved in this conflict, has not been invited to the peace talks as a member of the Syrian opposition, on the basis of their designation as a ‘terrorist organization’ by Turkey.
Davutoğlu has labeled both the PYD and their armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) as terrorist organizations due to their connections with Turkey’s domestic militant group, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).
The absence of the PYD during peace talks has revealed disagreements both at an international and domestic level. In Turkey, on the parliamentary side, the AKP (Justice and Development Party) strictly opposed the idea of inviting the PYD. Contrary to this, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) strongly supported their participation as the PYD plays a central role in the Syrian conflict, particularly in opposing the Islamic State (ISIL) and representing Kurds against the Syria regime. HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş has been critical of the government’s attempts to block the PYD from the talks.
At the international level, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Genady Gatilov said that “the PYD is not invited only for the first stage, but their place is prepared.” Gatilov shares the HDPs position regarding the impossibility of peace without the involvement of Syrian Kurds.
Although the PYD has not been invited to peace talks, Special Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, Brett McGurk, visited Kobane in Northern Syria in order to discuss Mosul operations with the PYD and the YPG.
The US has continued to see the PYD as a legitimate actor in the Syrian conflict. US Vice President Joe Biden had also claimed that there is a need to separate the PYD and the PKK during talks with Davutoğlu.
The controversy has continued, both in terms of Turkey’s calls for international recognition of the PYD as a terrorist organization and international powers use of the PYD in their fight against ISIL.
Some criticisms have been raised against Turkey’s ambiguous position towards the PYD during the course of this conflict, particularly in regards to their calls to designate the group as a terrorist organization when previously Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu has called for differentiation between the ‘terrorist’ YPG and the political party of the PYD, comparing the latter to the HDP. Simialrly there are international reservations as the US has provided military aid to the group previously.
A regional ceasefire will be extremely difficult to arrange without the participation of the PYD. The leader of the organization, Salih Müslim, stated after leaving Geneva “we do not recognize any decision coming out from Geneva, including ceasefire.” This statement illustrates that such ongoing controversies will inhibit successful negotiation over Syria.
On Wednesday, United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, announced that the talks will postponed until February 25th due to escalating conflict in the region and concerns over the futility of talks and lack of consensus for the time being.