Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, left, and Mikhail Bogdanov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia and Special Representative of the President of Russia for the Middle East review an honour guard during a welcome ceremony upon Assad's arrival at Vnukovo airport in Moscow, on March 14, 2023. Image Credit: AP

Moscow: Syrian President Bashar Al Assad on Wednesday will meet with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow as the Kremlin steps up efforts to restore ties between Turkey and Syria.

The Russian capital on the same day will also host four-way talks involving Turkey, Syria and Iran. The diplomatic activity comes days after top US military officials visited American troops and their Kurdish allies in northeastern Syria, where Washington has kept a presence for almost eight years.

The diplomatic push, opposed by the US, comes after China brokered a diplomatic detente between Iran and US ally Saudi Arabia, demonstrating its new-found weight in the region. The US has about 900 troops in Syria, a presence that Moscow and Damascus have long sought to end.

“The US reputation in the region would be undermined even more if the Americans try to impede regional efforts to stabilize Syria and push the Kurdish agenda,” said Nikolay Surkov, a Middle East analyst at the Moscow-based Institute of World Economy and International Relations. “Other regional states are likely to follow the example of Turkey.”

The inclusion of Iran in the talks at the level of deputy foreign minister came after Turkey indicated it didn’t oppose Tehran’s participation. The two-day meeting Wednesday and Thursday is intended to prepare the ground for consultations between the four countries’ top diplomats, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he’s willing to sit down with Assad to promote peace in the region.

The Syrian leader, who arrived in Russia late Tuesday, will meet Putin to discuss political and economic cooperation, the Kremlin said.

The rapprochement between Syria and Turkey, which has backed rebels fighting Assad in a war that started in 2011, has been pushed for by Damascus’s major military backer Russia. Syria remains under strict Western sanctions and is suspended from the Arab League, making it dependent on Iran, which also sent fighters to back Assad in the conflict.

A major sticking point so far remains the presence of Turkish troops in northern Syria and Ankara’s support for Syrian armed groups.