Syrian Kurds in Moscow, Hopeful of Recognition, Rouse Turks' Ire

  • Delegation to discuss opening representative office in Moscow
  • Russia, Turkey have clashed over Kremlin air campaign in Syria

A group of Syrian Kurds is trying to open a representative office in Moscow, a move that risks straining already frayed ties between Turkey and Russia as they spar over the latter’s first military campaign in the Middle East in more than three decades.

A Kurdish delegation is now in the Russian capital led by Asia Abdullah, co-leader of the Syrian-based Kurdish group PYD, according to Ibrahim Kurdo, head of the foreign relations committee in the provincial government of Kobani, Syria. Turkey considers the PYD and its armed YPG wing to be terrorist organizations.

“There are positive signals about the establishment of a representative office in Moscow,”  Kurdo said by phone on Tuesday. “Hopefully it will open soon.”

Turkey has wrangled with Russia since Sept. 30, when Vladimir Putin’s government embarked on a bombing campaign in Syria that Russian officials have told Bloomberg News is mainly aimed at shoring up the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey is one of several countries including the U.S. and Arab Gulf states that support rebels trying to oust the Syrian leader. The government in Ankara summoned the Russian and U.S. ambassadors last week to warn against supporting Kurds fighting Islamic State in Syria because of their links to the PKK, an autonomy-seeking militant group that has been involved in armed clashes with Turkish forces since the late 1970s.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country relies on Russian gas and has commissioned Russia to build its first nuclear power plant, has threatened to break trade ties in retaliation. Turkey also protested after Russian warplanes twice violated its airspace, and it shot down what it said was a Russian-made drone on Friday.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said by text message that ministry officials will meet with the Syrian Kurds to discuss a resolution of the 4 1/2 year conflict in Syria, declining further comment. Turkish Foreign Ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.

Turkey’s ambassador in Moscow, Umit Yardim, last week said that his country was concerned about any cooperation with Syrian Kurds fighting Islamic State and warned of an “immediate” Turkish response. Russia doesn’t consider the PYD a terrorist group and is in regular contact with it, the country’s envoy in Ankara, Andrey Karlov, told state news service RIA Novosti. Russia isn’t providing weapons to the Syrian Kurds, though it is assisting them indirectly by striking Islamic State targets, said Kurdo, the official in Kobani.

“We have been fighting terrorism in Syria for a long time, so we will cooperate with any force that fights terrorism,” Kurdo said. “We have a common interest with Russia in combating Islamic State.”

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
LEARN MORE