December 27, 2017 / 3:00 PM / 3 years ago

Syrian Kurds say Russia has promised they can attend Sochi talks

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Russia has promised that the autonomous region controlled by Kurds in northern Syria will be represented at peace talks it is hosting next month, the commander of the main Syrian Kurdish militia was cited as saying on Wednesday.

Moscow has said 155 representatives of the autonomous region will participate, Sipan Hemo, the commander of the YPG, was quoted as saying by official Syrian Kurdish social media channels on Wednesday.

Kurdish groups have not taken part in any round of Syrian peace talks so far despite their control of more than a quarter of Syria. Turkey opposes their involvement in talks.

Moscow backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s six-year-old civil war while Turkey opposes him.

But Ankara views the YPG as a terrorist group affiliated to the Kurdish PKK, which has waged an insurgency in Turkey for decades.

Russia, Iran and Turkey announced the Jan. 29-30 dates for the talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi date after a round of peace talks in Kazakhstan last week, but did not say who would participate.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday called Assad a terrorist and said it was impossible for Syrian peace efforts to continue with him. Syria responded that Erdogan himself supported terrorist groups fighting in Syria.

About 40 Syrian rebel groups, including factions that have taken part in other rounds of peace talks, said on Monday they would refuse to attend the Sochi congress.

Russia is the most powerful supporter of Assad. Its jets have helped him bring the rebellion against his rule near to an end, and rebels say Moscow has put no pressure on him to find a political solution.

U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura has said that the success of the congress should be assessed by its ability to contribute to and support the U.N.-led Geneva talks on ending the war.

Reporting by Angus McDowall; editing by Andrew Roche

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