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Syrian Kurdish Leader Says Russia Invited Militia To Sochi Peace Talks

A Kurdish man waves a large flag of the political wing of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), the Democratic Union Party (PYD), during a demonstration against the exclusion of Syrian Kurds from the Geneva talks in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli in 2016.

Russia has promised leaders of the autonomous region controlled by Kurds in northern Syria that they can send representatives to a peace forum it is hosting next month, the commander of the main Syrian Kurdish militia has said.

Moscow has said 155 representatives of the autonomous region will participate, Sipan Hemo, the commander of the People's Protection Units (YPG), said on social media.

Kurdish groups have not taken part in any round of Syrian peace talks since the civil war broke out in 2011, despite their control of more than a quarter of Syria.

Turkey opposes their involvement in talks. Ankara views the YPG as a terrorist group affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency in Turkey for decades.

Russia is hosting what it's calling a Syrian dialogue congress on January 29-30 in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, but it has been unclear who besides its ally, the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, would participate.

About 40 Syrian rebel groups, including factions that have taken part in other rounds of peace talks, said on December 26 they would not attend.

Moreover, while Syrian Kurds now say they expect to attend, the potential for fracturing along ethnic, religious, and partisan lines remains.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a principle backer of rebel groups in the conflict who has also worked with Russia on peace efforts, could take offense at the inclusion of the YPG.

And on December 27, Erdogan sided with the rebel groups in calling Assad a "terrorist" who should not be part of any future peace settlement.

"There is no peace in Syria and this peace won't come with Assad," Erdogan said on a visit to Tunisia. "How can we embrace the future with a Syrian president who has killed close to a million of his citizens?"

Based on reporting by AP, TASS, and Reuters