NICOLA Sturgeon is to host an international woman's summit on building a lasting peace in Syria.

Against a backdrop of looming UK airstrikes, the First Minister says she has accepted an invitation from the UN special envoy to Syria to help stabilise the shattered state.

The event will focus on supporting Syrian women to engage in “post-conflict planning” and becoming a key part of the peace process.

The development follows a meeting last month between Sturgeon and UN diplomat Staffan de Mistura at the First Minister’s official residence in Edinburgh last month.

Described as the man with the toughest job in the world, in July 2014 De Mistura was put in charge of finding a solution to the conflict in Syria, where the uprising against president Bashar al-Assad has been exploited by the terrorists of Islamic State or Daesh.

Sturgeon and De Mistura spoke again last week after his work at the Vienna peace talks.

The Scottish Government will now work with the United Nations to help with “capacity building and training” for women’s groups involved in the Syrian peace process, and will try to involve other political parties at Holyrood.

The work is based upon UN resolution 1325, passed in 2000, which stresses the vital role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian responses and post-conflict reconstruction.

De Mistura said: “Women's leadership and participation in conflict resolution are critical for sustainable solutions. The engagement of women in shaping the future of Syria is more important now than ever before. I am therefore glad that the Scottish Government has agreed to work with the United Nations on this initiative.”

Sturgeon said: “In recent months the world has been both touched by the plight of refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria and horrified by the terrorist atrocities of Daesh.

“Scotland is playing its role welcoming refugees into our communities and we have also provided funding to aid agencies responding to the crisis in Syria and surrounding countries. However we are also open to exploring other avenues to assist where we can.

“The UN Special Envoy to Syria…has asked for our support in training Syrian peace-makers in negotiation and communication skills to best prepare them to maximise their role in the talks.

“Scotland has set out its determination to put women at the heart of government and politics. Our Parliament has three female party leaders and a female Presiding Officer and I have appointed one of the first gender balanced cabinets in the world.”

New figures from the Scottish Parliament’s independent information centre this weekend ranked Scotland far ahead of the UK in terms of women’s political empowerment.

The World Economic Forum’s recent report on the Global Gender ranked the UK at 23rd overall, but on the same measures Scotland would be 14th.

Sturgeon went on: “Scotland’s work on gender issues has clearly been noticed by the United Nations and we are happy to explore how we can best help.

“The exact details are still to be finalised but this is work which I hope can involve politicians across the political spectrum in the Scottish Parliament but most importantly can also play a small but important part in helping the people of Syria find a lasting peace.”