Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in in Ankara on Wednesday for a three-way summit on the Syrian conflict. The leaders were determined to speed up efforts to ensure “calm on the ground” in Syria, and to protect civilians in “de-escalation areas,” according to a joint statement posted on Rouhani’s presidential website. The three  countries are working together to try to reduce the violence in Syria despite supporting opposing sides in the war.

Russia and Iran are Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s strongest backers, while Turkey supports anti-Assad insurgents.  Despite their differences Iran, Russia and Turkey are three of the major powers involved in a conflict whose course has been largely defined by foreign interventions, and their influence could increase further if the United States pulls out. Rouhani blamed the United States for backing Islamic State militants in Syria and called on all countries to respect the independence of its main Arab ally in the Middle East. READ MORE