Syrian Kurds open 'historic' political office in Moscow
Syrian Kurdish separatists on Wednesday opened a representation office in Moscow amid a push by the Kremlin to have them included in Syria peace talks despite Turkey's objections.
"This is a historical moment for the Kurdish people," Merab Shamoyev, chairman of the International Union of Kurdish Public Associations, said at the opening ceremony for the office in an industrial area in southeast Moscow.
"Russia is a great power and an important actor in the Middle East. It is in fact not only an actor, but also it writes the script."
Shamoyev said the opening of the representation was a "big political step" for Syrian Kurds.
Those present at the ceremony had ties to the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), he said.
The PYD is a leader in the fight against the Islamic State group in northern Syria, but Turkey considers it to be an offshoot of its enemy, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The opening of the office in Moscow is bound to fuel tensions in Russia's relations with Turkey, which broke down in November after Ankara shot down a Russian fighter jet on the Syrian border.
The PYD was not invited to the Syria peace talks, which collapsed in Geneva last week amid accusations from the West and the Syrian opposition that Russia's bombing campaign was targeting civilians.
Moscow, a long-time supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has said no negotiations could yield results without the party but Ankara considers its presence unacceptable, given Kurdish desires for independence.
Russia's foreign ministry has appeared to distance itself from the opening of the Syrian Kurdish office, saying Kurdish interests will be represented by diplomats from Syria and Iraq.
In November 2013, Kurdish groups in the northeast of the war-ravaged country announced the establishment of a transitional autonomous administration after making key territorial gains against Islamist rebel groups.
Syrian Kurdish groups have also announced plans to open offices in Washington, Paris, Berlin and Arab countries.
Last year, they opened their first representation office in the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq.