Russia accuses US of stoking Syrian-Kurdish separatist ambitions
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday accused the US of stoking separatist ambitions among Syria's Kurds and invited Kurdish representatives to an upcoming Moscow-led Syrian peace initiative in Sochi.
"Washington has actively encouraged and continues to encourage separatist sentiments among Kurds" while ignoring the "delicate" nature of the issue, Lavrov said.
"This is either a lack of understanding of the situation or an absolutely conscious provocation," Russia's foreign minister added.
Lavrov said Kurdish representatives were on a list of Syrians invited to participate in the Syrian National Dialogue Congress next week, saying Syrian Kurds should play a role in the "future political process".
"This role should certainly be ensured," he told reporters, but added that all of Syria's ethnic groups should respect the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Together with regime backer Iran and rebel supporter Turkey, Russia - a key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - wants to convene a peace conference with the aim of agreeing a new constitution for post-war Syria.
The peace talks have been planned for 29 and 30 January but has been criticised for sidelining important opposition factions.
Moscow initially hoped to convene peace talks in Sochi last November but those efforts collapsed following a lack of agreement among co-sponsors.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the time to fumed at the prospect of the political wing of the the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) being invited to the conference.
Without referring to Kurdish militia by name, Erdogan said in November: "We cannot consider a terrorist gang with blood on their hands a legitimate actor."
Turkey's military launched a cross-border operation using war planes and artillery this weekend to back a major ground incursion launched with Ankara-backed rebels on Saturday to oust the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia from its enclave of Afrin.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a total of 21 civilians - including six children - had been killed so far in "Operation Olive Branch".