Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Russia, Iran and Turkey have agreed to hold a “congress” in Russia that would bring together the warring factions in Syria for peace talks.
Putin’s comments came after he met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Russian Black Sea resort town of Sochi.
The three leaders have issued a joint statement aimed at continuing the Syrian peace talks and finding a sustainable solution for the post-conflict period by convening a “Syrian National Congress of Dialogue,” Putin said.
Putin and Rouhani said the congress – whose members would include figures from the Syrian regime and the opposition – would lay the groundwork for a new constitution and elections.
Putin said that “special services, military authorities are working on organizing that congress here in Sochi.”
“We have to bring representatives of all the different ethnic and denomination groups in Syria,” Putin said.
Putin said the new congress would “look at key problems on the national agenda of Syria,” including “working out a political organization and the endorsement of a new constitution” and “the organization of the new elections under the auspices of the UN.”
The Russian President also said that UN-backed peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland, should “intensify,” adding: “I want to stress here that the fate of Syria must be decide by Syrians themselves – both the government and opposition.”
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said during a visit to Sochi earlier this week that he was “totally committed” to a peaceful solution and to holding new elections, Putin said.
Putin and his government have been one of the chief supporters of the Assad regime, both militarily and in helping to negotiate ceasefires in the country’s long-running civil war.
Putin also said that peace talks held in Astana, Kazakhstan, had made a difference. “We have very considerably reduced the violence in Syria,” he said, and now have to ensure that conditions are in place for return of refugees.
“As guarantor countries – Russia, Iran and Turkey will continue to work on making sure that combat actions are finished, that the deescalation zones are protected and that that is respected by all sides,” he added.