Syria has been stuck in a war involving several domestic and foreign forces for nearly five years with almost no common ground to be found among the main organizations fighting on the ground.

Al-Assad government: President Bashar al-Assad's forces still control most of the large cities such as Damascus, Homs and parts of Aleppo as well as the western coastal strip. Syria's army has suffered heavy losses, but al-Assad has refused to step down.

Islamic State: The extremist group controls vast areas in northern and eastern Syria and has set up local administrations. The militia has suffered territorial losses in recent months, especially in the Kurdish regions, but remains the most powerful non-governmental force.

Rebels: Rebel strongholds are in the north-west and south. They include some moderate groups that are supported by the West but are increasingly dominated by Islamic hardliners such as Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar ash-Sham. Some of them also cooperate with al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front. Government airstrikes are putting them on the back foot.

Opposition: The opposition is fragmented. The most important alliance in the opposition is the Syrian National Coalition. In Damascus there are also opposition parties, which are tolerated by al-Assad's regime. The Higher Negotiations Committee is an opposition grouping formed in Saudi Arabia for the purpose of negotiations, but many prominent representatives of the opposition are not included in the panel.

The Kurds: They control most of the border with Turkey. The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its fighters are the most effective ground force beating back Islamic State and are allied with the United States. Many rebels, who dislike the Kurds' secular-leftist ideology, accuse them of working with al-Assad, a charge they deny. The PYD has links to the armed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is banned in Turkey. The party set up autonomous zones but denies it seeks to secede from Syria.

United States: Washington is leading an international coalition against Islamic State, which includes daily airstrikes. US allies participating in the airstrikes include France, Britain, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Germany is supplying reconnaissance planes. Washington also supports some moderate opponents of al-Assad's regime.

Russia: A main backer of al-Assad, Russia has been flying bombing campaigns to support the government since September. Moscow says its raids are aimed at Islamic State and other extremist groups, but rebels say they have borne the brunt.

Iran: Tehran is the most loyal supporter of the Syrian government. Iran has recruited its own citizens and others to support al-Assad's soldiers. Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite movement financed by Iran, is also fighting along with al-Assad's troops.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey: The two regional powers are important supporters of the rebels. They both demand al-Assad's resignation. Saudi Arabia hopes to diminish the influence of Iran, its arch-enemy in the Middle East. Turkey is seeking to contain Kurdish gains in Syria.

Israel: Israeli airstrikes - which the government rarely confirms - appear to have primarily targeted Hezbollah and arms transfers to the group's bases in Lebanon. Israel has given some humanitarian assistance to rebel fighters near its border.

Related stories

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.