As Syria enters its fifth year of war, more than a dozen countries are coming together to find a solution to the fighting that spawned the world's most dire humanitarian crisis since World War II. On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Vienna for talks on Syria with counterparts from Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other influential Middle Eastern and European nations.
The series of meetings is the biggest diplomatic push for peace in Syria yet. Iran's inclusion in the talks, previously blocked by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, is significant. Iran is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's biggest supporter — alongside Russia — having provided military backing to the widely reviled leader. But the U.S. concedes that there may not be a solution to peace without negotiations with two of his largest backers.
Though no one is expressly optimistic about the outcome of these talks, some participants said that that this collection of nations being willing to discuss a potential solution is progress in itself, the Associated Press reports. (Iran and Saudi Arabia have long grappled for power in the region.)
Noticeably missing from the talks is Assad himself and any representative from the Syrian opposition. It is unclear if they were invited.
The refugee crisis has spilled over to Europe, too. Although Germany has been the only nation who welcomed refugees with open arms, it, too, is now straining to handle the deluge of newcomers.
Cover image via Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla