Lavrov: Kurds must be invited to Geneva peace talks to preserve Syria’s integrity

Moscow strongly insists that the Kurds be invited to the the upcoming Syrian peace talks in Geneva, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, suggesting that leaving them out could endanger Syria’s territorial integrity.

“If the Kurds are ‘thrown out’ of the negotiations on Syria’s future, how can you expect them to want to remain within this state?” Lavrov said in an interview with Russian REN TV channel aired on Sunday.

“We believe that the process, which starts in Geneva, must necessarily include the Kurds, if we all mean what we say in declaring our commitment to Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The minister also stressed that Russia will press the UN not to “surrender to ‘ultimatums’ and invite the Kurds to the table of the negotiation process right from the start.”

In mentioning ultimatums, Lavrov was apparently pointing a finger at Turkey, which strongly opposes the Kurds’ involvement in the Syrian peace process, despite them being one of the most successful forces fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria, along with the Syrian army.

According to the minister, while opposing the advances of the Kurdish forces, Ankara itself has been setting up certain zones of control within Syria.

“While demanding that the Kurds be prevented from consolidating their positions in Syria, Turkey meanwhile has started to declare its sovereign right to create some sort of security zones on Syrian territory. According to our information, they have been ‘entrenching’ inside Syria just a few hundred meters from the border,” Russia’s top diplomat said.

Lavrov stressed that Russia is ready to actively cooperate with the US-led coalition in fighting IS militants in Syria, noting that the US has finally come to understand the need for not only an exchange of information, but also a coordination of actions.

“The United States understands that it is necessary not just to communicate with each other so as not to shoot down each other’s jets, but also to coordinate our actions in combatting terrorism,” he said.

Russia’s FM talked a great deal about US-Russian relations, noting that there had been much controversy lately, which has been exacerbated by the “immature stance” of some of his US colleagues.

“There is always a direct emergency communication channel between Moscow and Washington… But at times we hear certain statements coming from official Pentagon representatives claiming that there is no coordination with Russia.”

Commenting on the current refugee crisis in Europe, Lavrov expressed hope that the EU would learn something from the current situation.

“There was hubris, a condescending tone, coming from Europe, that their human rights record is perfectly fine, that they should not be subject to discussions at the UN or the Council of Europe, that they can handle it on their own,” he said.

“Now the migration crisis has shown what their solidarity is worth, not in the ‘fat years,’ but when trouble comes – and that is ‘every man for himself.’”

The minister also noted that many Western officials, and especially NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, have been “shamefully” accusing Russia of being “the reason behind the escalation of the migrant crisis.”

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He pointed out, however, that the roots of the current situation lie in the past, beginning with when Libya was bombed and turned into a channel for illegally smuggling migrants from Africa, Iraq, and Afghanistan into Europe.