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Turkey, Russia, Iran Agree to Hold Syrian National Dialogue Congress Featured

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The leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran on Wednesday agreed on the convocation of a Syrian peoples' congress as one of the first steps to establish inclusive dialogue in the war-ravaged country, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

Speaking after meeting his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Iran's Hassan Rouhani, Putin said the three leaders had instructed their diplomats, security and defense bodies to work on the composition and date of the congress.

Syria's leadership is committed to the peace process, constitutional reform and free elections observed by the U.N., Putin said after the trilateral meeting held in the southern Russian city of Sochi. The three presidents agreed to step up efforts to finish off "terrorist" groups in Syria, he said.

For his part, Erdoğan said Turkey prioritizes the exclusion of terrorist elements [PYD/YPG] from the resolution process in Syria, will not be under the same roof with terrorists that undermine its national security.

He called on the international community and stakeholders in Syria to support the three countries' efforts to resolve the crisis.

The three presidents came together at the Rus Sanatorium to discuss a permanent political solution to the Syrian civil war, which has entered its seventh year and has claimed at least 400,000 lives, according to human rights organizations.

In the brief press conference before the meeting, Putin said: "It is obvious that the reform process will not be simple, it will require compromise and concessions from all parties, including obviously the Syrian government." He added that he is proposing to discuss "parameters of Forum of Syrian Dialogue" on the same day.

He called on the other leaders to continue helping to restore Syria by developing a long-term comprehensive program, considering the "colossal scale of destruction" that the country has endured.

The Russian president also hailed the special role Erdoğan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani played in the Astana peace process, saying that military action in Syria would not end otherwise.

Erdoğan said that he believes critical decisions are to be taken today at Sochi regarding the ongoing Syrian crisis. He noted that the current progress regarding the crisis is significant but is not sufficient, adding that all sides need to contribute to find a political solution that will be embraced by the Syrian people.

Rouhani said he is pleased Turkey, Iran and Russia are cooperating closely on a Syria peace process, adding that ground is prepared for a political settlement for the war-torn country. He also said there is "need to uproot the last cells of terrorism in Syria."

Meanwhile, Rouhani also said that foreign military presence in Syria acceptable only if it is by invitation of the Assad regime.

Erdoğan also held a bilateral meeting with Rouhani on the sidelines of the summit. The meeting, which was closed to the media, lasted 40 minutes.

Ahead Erdoğan's meeting, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoğlu, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met in Turkey's Mediterranean city of Antalya in Sunday in a preliminary meeting to discuss details that were expected to be on the agenda.

Also, Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar went to Sochi on Tuesday to meet with Russia's Chief of Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov and Iranian Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri ahead of the Sochi summit.

Turkey, Russia and Iran are the guarantor countries that brokered a cease-fire in Syria in December 2016, leading to the Astana talks, which are running parallel to the Geneva talks for peace in Syria. The three countries have carried out negotiations in the Kazakh capital since and agreed on the formation of five de-escalation zones in Syria.

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