Syrian Kurdish YPG says not bound by Astana peace talks outcome

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said on Monday it would not be bound by any decision that comes out of peace talks under way in Kazakhstan as it was not involved in the meetings.

Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) walk in the Ghwairan neighborhood of Hasaka, Syria, August 22, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said

Indirect talks between representatives of the Syrian government and rebel groups began on Monday in the Kazakh capital Astana, sponsored by Russia, Turkey, and Iran.

The talks are the first to bring government and opposition delegations together since U.N.-brokered negotiations in Geneva were suspended last year. But the YPG and its political arm the PYD were not invited.

“As we are not participating in these talks, we stress that we are not bound by any decisions issued from the Astana conference,” the YPG said in a statement.

“We, in the People’s Protection Units (YPG), believe the entities that are participating and that have sponsored these talks are part of the problem in Syria in the first place,” it said.

Assad’s ally Russia had previously sought the PYD’s presence at negotiations in Switzerland.

But Turkey, long one of the rebels’ main backers, regards both the YPG and PYD as extensions of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) separatists in its own territory and said they should not be represented in Astana.

The YPG is at the heart of a U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State in Syria, and it controls swathes of the north, where Kurdish groups have carved out self-governing regions since the start of the conflict.

The YPG said the solution for the Syrian conflict, which has raged on into it sixth year, would be “through democratic autonomous zones that preserve the unity of the Syrian land and that we are applying on the ground”.

The warring sides “could benefit from this experience that we have established,” it said.

The YPG has mostly avoided conflict with the Syrian government, despite tensions flaring at some points.

The YPG has clashed with nationalist Syrian Arab rebels, which have accused it of collaborating with the government - something the group denies.

Reporting by Ellen Francis; Editing by Robin Pomeroy