The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran met met in Sochi in Russia on Wednesday to discuss ways to advance political settlement in Syria as the Islamic State group is nearing defeat.
The meet comes after Assad made a surprise trip to Russia late Monday for talks with Putin, which the Kremlin said were intended to lay the groundwork for the trilateral meeting in Sochi.
“Militants in Syria have received a decisive blow, and there is a real chance to put an end to the civil war that has raged for many years,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the start of talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
In their joint statement after the talks, all three leaders emphasized the need for all parties in the Syrian conflict to release all prisoners and hostages, hand over bodies and search for those missing to help create conditions for lasting cease-fire and the launch of political talks.
Putin noted that political settlement will require concessions from all sides, including Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government. He also said that the Syrian leader pledged to conduct constitutional reforms and hold new elections under UN supervision.
“We have reached a consensus on helping the transition to an inclusive, free, fair and transparent political process that will be carried out under the leadership and ownership of the Syrian people,” Erdogan said.
Russia and Iran have backed Assad’s government since the start of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, but Turkey in the past has supported Assad’s foes. Despite that, the three countries have teamed up to help mediate a peace settlement.
Putin spoke to several world leaders highlighting a key role Russia has come to play in the Syrian conflict. He also highlighted Moscow’s desire to engage all key players in the talks.
Meanwhile, the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura spoke at the opening of a three-day gathering of the Syrian opposition in Riyadh, where various opposition groups are expected to come up with a unified delegation and a vision for the November 28 Geneva talks. Around 30 various opposition delegations are set to attend the meeting.
De Mistura said he planned to have two rounds of talks in Geneva in December. He is also set to travel to Moscow later this week.
“It is our common interest that today, you elect the best and most inclusive team among yourselves,” de Mistura said. “A strong, unified team is a creative partner in Geneva and we need that.”
The Riyadh meeting, however, has already been marred with disagreements. The notoriously fragmented opposition is divided by visions of a future role for the incumbent Syrian President Bashar Assad, the length of a transitional period as well as the constitution that will see the country move toward elections.
“There is no resolution to the crisis without Syrian consensus that achieves the demands of the Syrian people and ends their suffering,” Saudi Foreign Minister al-Jubeir said at the meet, adding that a resolution must be based on U.N. resolutions.
Russia, which has welcomed the Saudi efforts to unify the opposition, will also be hosting another meeting in Sochi that’s expected to bring the opposition and Syrian government together in early December.
(With inputs from agencies)