On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin was set to host his Iranian and Turkish counterparts to discuss how to resolve the conflict in Syria as Islamic State jihadists made a last stand in the east of the country and Washington prepares to withdraw troops.
A flurry of diplomatic efforts this week is, focusing on the eight-year conflict in which more than 350,000 people have died. The international anti-IS coalition is set to meet on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference while US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will attend a conference on the Middle East in Warsaw. At their meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Putin and Iran's Hassan Rouhani -- who back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad -- and Turkey's rebel-backing Recep Tayyip Erdogan are set to discuss ways to advance intra-Syrian dialogue.
However, Russia has been a key player in the conflict since launching military intervention in 2015 in support of Assad's regime, which now controls almost two-thirds of the country. The Astana peace process, launched on the initiative of Moscow along with Iran and Turkey, has eclipsed parallel talks led by the United Nations without coming up with a definitive solution to the conflict. The meeting will be the fourth summit between the countries' leaders since November 2017.
Earlier in late December, the United Nations admitted it had failed to put such a committee in place, citing problems with changes wanted by Damascus to the list of proposed members. It comes as Kurdish and Arab fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) with support from the Washington-led coalition on Saturday launched a "final" offensive against the jihadists' last holdout in the eastern Deir Ezzor province.