Russia, Iran, Turkey agree to advance peace in Syria

Russia, Iran, Turkey agree to advance peace in Syria
The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran met on Wednesday to discuss ways to advance a political settlement in Syria as Syrian opposition groups met in Saudi Arabia.
3 min read
23 November, 2017
Russia, Turkey and Iran met to discuss a political settlement in Syria. [Getty]
The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran met on Wednesday to discuss ways to advance a political settlement in Syria as Syrian opposition groups met in Saudi Arabia to form a unified front ahead of peace talks in Geneva.

Bashar al-Assad had made a surprise visit to Russia late Monday for talks with Putin which the Kremlin said were intended to lay the groundwork for the trilateral meeting in Sochi on Wednesday.

Speaking after the three-way talks, Putin said that the Syrian regime leader pledged to conduct constitutional reforms and hold new elections under UN supervision.

In a joint statement after the talks, Putin, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan 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 a political settlement would require concessions from all sides, including Bashar Assad's government.

"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.

The meeting comes as Ankara, Moscow and Tehran cooperate with increasing intensity on ending the six-year civil war in Syria, despite Turkey still officially being on an opposite side of the Syria conflict from Russia and Iran, which are key Assad backers.

They have sponsored several rounds of talks between the Syrian regime and the opposition in Astana, Kazakhstan and helped broker four so-called "de-escalation" zones across the country.

Syrian opposition meet in Riyadh

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 28 November Geneva talks.

De Mistura said he planned to have two rounds of talks in Geneva in December. He is 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 fragmented opposition is divided by visions of a future role for the Assad, the length of a transitional period as well as the constitution that will see the country move toward elections.

Around 30 various opposition delegations are attending the meeting.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in opening remarks that the opposition meeting comes amid international consensus to reach a resolution.

"There is no resolution to the crisis without Syrian consensus that achieves the demands of the Syrian people and ends their suffering," al-Jubeir said, adding that a resolution must be based on UN resolutions.

Russia, which has welcomed the Saudi efforts to unify the opposition, will also be hosting a meeting in Sochi that’s expected to bring the opposition and Syrian government together in early December.

Russia, Turkey and Iran have pledged to help the success of that meeting.

Putin, whose military intervention in the war saved Assad's government from imminent defeat, called US President Donald Trump, Saudi King Salman, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on Tuesday to brief them on his talks with Assad and coordinate the planned peace efforts.