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Russia, Turkey, Iran Leaders To Meet In Sochi For Talks On Syria's Future

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) meets with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on February 14.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on his Turkish and Iranian counterparts to continue working together "actively and consistently" on plans to stabilize war-torn Syria after a U.S. troop withdrawal that has been announced by President Donald Trump.

Putin made the remarks on February 14 in Russia's Black Sea resort city of Sochi where he is hosting talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Iranian President Hassan Rohani.

The summit began with a bilateral meeting between Putin and Erdogan.

The Kremlin said the Russian, Turkish, and Iranian presidents would be considering "further joint steps with a view to a long-term settlement" in Syria.

Erdogan's office said Turkey, Russia, and Iran would be seeking a "permanent solution" to stabilize Syria.

All three countries have deployed military forces in Syria, and have said they want a political solution that brings an end to the country's seven-year civil war.

Moscow and Tehran back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey and the United States back different rebel groups.

Several rounds of negotiations in recent years have failed to end the fighting, which has killed more than 400,000 people, displaced millions, and devastated historic sites across the country.

Trump announced in December that he will withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria.

About 2,000 U.S. soldiers have been assisting a Syrian Arab and Kurdish alliance in the fight against militant extremists from the so-called Islamic State group.

Critics say Trump's announcement handed a victory to Russia and Iran. They also say a U.S. withdrawal will leave U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters at the mercy of Turkey, which considers them terrorists.

Speaking ahead of the Sochi summit, Erdogan said Turkey wants to move in coordination with Russia to establish what he called a "safe zone" in northern Syria.

Erdogan said Syria's territorial integrity cannot be guaranteed as long as the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG militia remain in the area.

Earlier, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Ankara would need approval from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to create any safe zone in Syrian territory.

"The question of the presence of a military contingent acting on the authority of a third country on the territory of a sovereign country, and especially Syria, must be decided directly by Damascus," spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the three presidents would discuss the formation of a committee that would be tasked with drafting a postwar constitution for Syria.

With reporting by dpa, AFP, and Reuters