Turkey’s Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar met with his Iranian and Russian counterparts in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi Nov. 21 to lay the groundwork for a critical summit to be held Nov. 22 between leaders of all three nations, where they will thrash out what many observers label “mission impossible” — a political settlement to Syria’s six-year-long civil conflict. The summit will coincide with a separate gathering in Riyadh of tens of groups opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It is meant to achieve a similarly gargantuan task — to agree on a common position before United Nations peace talks resume in Geneva on Nov. 28.
The dizzying diplomacy took a further unexpected turn when Assad arrived in Sochi Nov. 21 to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photos of the two men embracing sent a strong signal to other stakeholders ahead of the talks that Assad is not going away anytime soon and certainly not under Russian pressure.