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Syrian Kurdish groups say not invited to peace talks   

Gulf Today - 11 January, 2017

The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and its political arm the PYD will not be invited to planned peace talks in Kazakhstan, a PYD official said on Tuesday, an outcome that would leave a key player in the conflict off the negotiating table.

“We are not invited. That’s for sure,” Khaled Eissa, a PYD member said in France. “It seems there were some vetoes. Neither the PYD or our military formation will be present,” he said.

“What we have been told is that there will only be a limited number of armed groups and not political groups,” Eissa said, adding that for a comprehensive peace deal in Syria the Kurds would at one point have to be invited to the negotiating table.

The main Syrian political opposition umbrella group that includes about half a dozen armed groups, the Riyadh-backed High Negotiations Committee, is meeting in the Saudi capital later this week to discuss the Astana talks, although it is also unclear whether Moscow intends to invite them, diplomats and opposition officials said.

Meanwhile, Russian military officials on Tuesday slammed US-led coalition action against Daesh in Syria as having had “less than zero” impact, and claimed that a US air strike killed 20 Syrian civilians this month.

Russia’s involvement in the war-torn country since September 2015 had “changed the course of fighting terrorism in Syria,” said chief of general staff Valery Gerasimov.

He listed the successes of Russia’s operation to shore up the forces of long-time ally Bashar Al Assad, saying Moscow had carried out 71,000 strikes.

But “our colleagues from the US-led anti-terrorist coalition have conducted considerably fewer strikes, only about 6,500, over the past two and a half years of the operation against Daesh in Syria,” he said.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, speaking during a televised meeting, said the US-led coalition had made no impact.

“As much as we needed the support of the international coalition -- the affect of which has been less than zero -- I regret to say that we did not see this support, and this required us to exert all of our energy” on Syria, he said.

Gerasimov said the coalition strikes never had “any significant results” and said they had caused a “considerable number of deaths among civilians and government troops.” Besides a misguided strike on Syrian troops near Deir Ezzor last September, which the Pentagon admitted was a “regrettable error,” Gerasimov said a US plane had bombed Syrian civilians on January 3.
 
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