A Russian-sponsored Syrian peace summit scheduled for November 18 has been postponed amid Turkish objections over the proposed participation of Kurdish representatives. The head of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD--considered by Ankara an offshoot of the banned PKK, which has waged an insurgency in Turkey for decades--indicated last week that his group for the first time would attend such a diplomatic push to end the war.
The PYD has emerged as one of the most powerful players in Syria through its armed YPG units, which form the backbone of the U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Forces that was instrumental in liberating Raqqa from Islamic State control. Turkey fears that the Kurds will now attempt to carve out an autonomous territory in northern Syria, a non-starter for the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
A fifth round of formal peace talks was held this summer in Astana, Kazakhstan, drawing delegations from Russia, Iran, and Turkey, with negotiations having focused on the establishment of so-called "de-escalation" zones in Syria as a prelude to forging a comprehensive ceasefire that would lay the foundation for a political resolution to the crisis. Given the large swaths of territory controlled by the Kurds, many analysts believe that their inclusion in any process to determine the future composition of Syria is paramount.