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Russian FM hosts pro-Kurdish party leader for Syria talks




Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday hosted Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party leader Selahattin Demirtas for talks on the Syrian conflict and Moscow’s potential support for Kurdish groups fighting Islamic State jihadists.

Ankara is warily watching if Moscow will tighten links with Kurdish factions amid the crisis in bilateral ties following the downing of a Russian bomber by Turkey at the Syrian border last month.

“We know that there are Iraqi and Syrian Kurds who are fighting the threat of Isis and other extremist groups with weapons on the ground,” Lavrov told Demirtas, the leader of Turkey’s Democratic People’s Party (HDP).

“Russia… is ready to actively cooperate with those on the ground who are fighting this threat,” he said in remarks released by the foreign ministry.

“We will be ready and interested in considering your views in our further work on this multi-level front,” he said.

Demirtas is the first high-profile Turkish figure to visit Moscow since Turkey shot down a Russian warplane on the Turkish-Syrian border on November 24.

The incident sparked the biggest crisis in ties between Moscow and Ankara since the end of the Cold War and saw Moscow introduce a raft of economic sanctions against Turkey.

The Turkish government has criticised the visit of the main Kurdish opposition party leader to Russia.

“Why are they going at such a time to a country with which we are having a crisis because of their violation of this nation’s airspace?” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu asked on Tuesday.

In a move likely to further infuriate Ankara, Lavrov said Russia supports Demirtas’ Democratic People’s Party platform which “ensures unity of the (Turkish) nation” by supporting the rights of ethnic groups in the country.

Russia’s top diplomat told Demirtas that Moscow’s sanctions against Turkey and its position over the warplane downing in no way extend “to our relationship with the Turkish people.”

“It is important to unite all the resources of those who seek to decisively battle terrorism,” Lavrov added.

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