Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday hosted Presidents Hassan Rouhani of Iran and Vladimir Putin of Russia to discuss the civil war in Syria, which is now in its eighth year.
Officials said the leaders would gather in Ankara to discuss potential solutions to the fighting, with a focus on the last remaining opposition strongholds. Russia and Turkey said they wanted to create "de-escalation zones" in Idlib province and some areas in Hama.
The meeting was the fifth among Iran, Russian and Turkey to talk about regional and global issues.
Iran and Russia have both supported the Syrian regime while Turkey and the United States have favored anti-government rebel forces. The U.S. military has targeted Islamic State militants in Syria with the help of Kurdish fighters, which Turkey considers terrorist.
"It is necessary to neutralize the militants who have ensconced themselves in Idlib and on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River," Russia foreign affairs official Vladimir Dzhabarov told state-run Izvestia.
"We must find a solution to this problem with Iran and Turkey. In general, the presence of terrorists poses an immediate threat to the entire region."
Erdogan was expected to hold bilateral meetings with Putin and Rouhani before they all met together Monday. Putin was expected to speak with Rouhani about possibilities for maintaining the 2015 nuclear deal.