SOCHI, Russia/RIYADH Russias Vladimir Putin hosted the presidents of Turkey and Iran to discuss Syria on Wednesday, launching a major diplomatic push to finally end a civil war that has been all but won by the government of President Bashar Assad.
Syrian opposition groups, meeting in Saudi Arabia to seek a unified position ahead of peace talks, decided to stick to their demand that Assad leave power, Al Arabiya television reported, following speculation they might soften their stance after their hardline leader quit.
Putin, who hosted Hassan Rouhani and Tayyip Erdogan in the Black Sea resort of Sochi two days after being visited there by Assad, said the Iranian and Turkish presidents had agreed to support a Russian proposal for a Syrian peoples congress.
Russia wants the congress, also to be held in Sochi, to open dialog alongside a formal UN-sponsored peace process in Geneva.
Syrias civil war, which is in its seventh year, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and created the worlds worst refugee crisis, driving more than 11 million people from their homes.