Following embattled Syrian President Bashar al Assad's visit to Moscow, for the first time Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu has met with US, Russian and Saudi counterparts in a key summit over the Syrian conflict in Vienna on Friday.
Russia, which insists on Assad’s involvement in the process, hosted the regime leader earlier this week in Moscow, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in his first trip abroad since the beginning of the war.
The US condemned the visit, with White House spokesman Eric Schultz telling reporters that "We view the red carpet welcome for Assad, who has used chemical weapons against his own people, at odds with the stated goal by the Russians for a political transition in Syria."
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu continued to insist that the Assad regime had lost all legitimacy to rule, while Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir on Thursday said that Assad’s removal from power was necessary to defeat the ISIS, claiming the regime acted as a magnet "that attracted foreign fighters from all over the world” to fight for the terrorist group.
"We discussed the situation in Syria and how to find a peaceful solution for the conflict that guarantees Syria's future and leads to a transitional period that does not include Bashar al Assad," Jubeir said after holding talks with his Austrian counterpart in Vienna.
On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister called on Iran, which has also backed the Assad regime with military support, to be involved in the transition process, in addition to Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
Russian President Putin also said on Thursday that Assad is ready to make contact with the opposition to engage in dialogue. Putin previously said Assad would be willing to call a snap parliamentary election and share power with a “healthy opposition," without elaborating further.
The war in Syria has to date claimed the lives of an estimated 250,000 people, most of whom were killed by the regime air strikes and indiscriminate barrel bombings from helicopters on civilian areas.
Approximately half the country’s population has been displaced, with around 6.7 million seeking refuge elsewhere in Syria and 5 million moving onto neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.
This year around half a million refugees, mostly Syrians, have entered Europe, hoping to get asylum in economically well-off EU countries.