The UN-convened Syria peace talks started on 1 February, but the opposition, or rather the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) selected by Saudi Arabia and the “Sunni Axis”, is meeting in separate sessions from the Syrian government team..
The largest Kurdish organisation, the PYD, and their leader Salih Muslim, are not there. The US wanted them in, but Turkey’s president Erdogan barred them. Arab forces involved with the PYD in the US-backed Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) have consequently refused to take part. Turkey insists that the PYD is part of the same organisation as the Turkish-Kurdish PKK, and the PKK is “terrorist”.
Turkey has a much softer relationship with Daesh, particularly in the oil trade, than it does with the PKK/PYD. Turkey’s hostility to the Kurds goes far beyond opposition to one organisation. The Turkish state has continually suppressed Kurdish national rights and cracked down on Kurdish demonstrations and on the pro Kurdish HDP Party in Turkey.
The US says it backs the Saudi-engineered High Negotiations Committee (HNC). The HNC’s leader is former Syrian Prime Minister Riyad al-Hijab and its negotiator in Geneva is Mohammed Alloush of Jaish al-Islam, a component of the Islamic Front, which is the Saudi-backed salafist opposition to Assad regime. There are also representatives of what is left of the Free Syrian Army and its political wing the Syrian National Coalition. The secular opposition to Assad will not have access to the talks.
Meanwhile, the Syrian regime’s barrel bombs killed 47 civilians on day one of the talks. Russia also continues to bomb rebel groups, in an operation which is strengthening Daesh relative to the other anti-Assad groups. The Syrian government just wants to keep itself in power, and has no wish to negotiate for an end to Assad’s time as President With the US, France and Britain targeting Daesh, Russia (more effectively, and with bigger civilian casualties) pounding the non-Daesh opposition, and Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah backing Assad, Syria is in a stalemate likely to continue for some time.