Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin smile during their meeting in the Black sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Russia February 14, 2019. Sergei Chirikov/Pool via REUTERS Image Credit: REUTERS

Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted the leaders of Turkey and Iran on Thursday, intensifying efforts to usher in peace in Syria as a fragile truce is threatened in the country’s final rebel stronghold.

The three presidents - Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani - gathered at the Black Sea resort town of Sochi, where they pledged to take some sort of action against militants in Idlib province in northern Syria.

“I am confident that our trilateral summit on Syria will provide a new impulse toward stabilisation in this country,” Putin said before sitting down with his counterparts.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Idlib is “definitely on the agenda.”

“The parties will definitely discuss the fact that terrorist groups continue to have a presence there,” he said.

Moscow, which entered the Syrian war militarily in 2015, has been cementing its role as the true arbiter of Syria’s future. Amid a pending US withdrawal, key power-brokers in the region are looking to the Kremlin for guidance in charting a settlement.

Last fall, Russia and Turkey, which also has forces inside Syria, brokered a cease-fire in Idlib, sparing the area a devastating assault by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad and preventing a humanitarian disaster.

But the persistence of Daesh fighters, and the recent entry of groups linked to Al Qaida, have now increased the possibility of an assault on the region, which is about the size of Lebanon.

Ahead of Thursday’s talks, a top Russian lawmaker said that bringing Idlib under Al Assad’s control was the only way to settle Syria’s future.

“The state cannot be unified while a hotbed of anti-government activity persists,” Alexei Pushkov told the newspaper Izvestia.