Russia, Turkey and Iran begin Ankara summit to discuss Syria

April 4 (UPI) — A trilateral summit began in Ankara on Wednesday as the presidents of Turkey, Russia and Iran try to chart Syria’s future following seven years of war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met in the Turkish capital to discuss progress made in the war-torn country for the first time since November.

A banquet and joint news conference will follow the meeting. A statement will also be released following the meeting.

Russia, Turkey and Iran have often shown conflicting priorities in Syria and the meeting may not resolve any of those differences, Mark Katz, a Middle East scholar at George Mason University, in Virginia, told RadioFreeEurope.

The three leaders likely think “the optics will be good enough,” Katz said.

“For the moment it makes it look like they’re the ones all making the decisions and, of course, without the United States,” he said. “And they all like that idea, they’re making policy independent of the United States, that is their own basic common denominator.”

Despite their differences, Putin highlighted the close relationship between Russia and Iran during the summit.

“We have permanent, regular dialogue at practically all levels in all areas of our cooperation,” Putin said. “At the political level, we have permanent contacts with you personally. When I was in Iran, I met with your country’s spiritual leader. Our foreign ministers are working all the time, and our military officials keep in touch with each other too.”

Rouhani said Russia and Iran “see eye-to-eye on bilateral and international issues.”

“We have three important objectives: security and stability, return of refugees and determining the fate of the Syrian Arab Republic by the Syrians,” the Iranian president said. “I do hope that today’s summit will contribute to efforts to achieve peace and security in our region.”

Before the meeting, Erdogan met privately with both Rouhani and Putin to discuss Syria and economic issues.

A new round of talks on Syria will be held on May 14-15 in Astana, Kazakhstan, Russian Special Presidential Representatives for the Syrian Settlement Alexander Lavrentyev said.