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Kurds protest exclusion from Syria talks

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08:49 CET+01:00
Syrian Kurds protested in Geneva on Thursday over their exclusion from UN-brokered peace talks in Switzerland, and vowed to forge ahead with their own freedom drive in territories they control.

"Some forces are trying to exclude us from the solutions they are looking
for, and they're not representing anybody," said Saleh Muslim, leader of the
Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).
   
"We will continue our struggle until we get our democratic rights," he told
reporters in Geneva, where the Syrian government and opposition were to hold
separate meetings with the UN mediator on Friday, two days after angry
exchanges at the so-called Geneva II international peace conference in the
Swiss city of Montreux.
   
Speaking on behalf of the Syrian Kurdish Supreme Council -- made up of a
range of groups from the country's Kurdish minority -- Muslim said its efforts
to join the talks had failed.
   
That was despite repeated requests to the United Nations, the United States
and Russia, the main movers in getting the Syrian regime and opposition
coalition to the table.
   
The opposition delegation in Geneva includes Abdel Hamid Darwish, head of the Kurdish Progressive Democratic Party, which has questioned the PYD's drive for self-rule in northeastern Syria.
   
But Muslim poured scorn on Darwish's clout within the delegation, and complained that rights for the Kurdish minority were not on the table.
   
"How can you bring democracy to Syria without solving the Kurdish issue in Syria? The Kurdish issue should be solved within Geneva II," he said.
   
He said Syria was home to 3.5 million Kurds, or some 15 percent of the country's population, and part of a community of around 40 million scattered across the region, notably in Iraq and Turkey.
   
Muslim noted that his movement rose up for Kurdish rights back in 2004, seven years before a regime crackdown on peaceful Arab Spring-inspired protests sent Syria spinning into civil war.
   
"We have a long history of struggle against this regime," he said.
   
But he also criticised the Syrian opposition coalition, saying it had failed to give Kurds a fair hearing.

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