Diplomats Push for End to Syria’s Violence

Posted March 31st, 2012 at 10:55 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is meeting with Gulf Arab diplomats in Saudi Arabia on Saturday to discuss issues that include bringing an end to Syria's year-long crackdown on dissent.

The meeting is a prelude to the 60-nation “Friends of the Syria” meeting in Turkey on Sunday. Clinton, as well as diplomats from other nations that support Syrian opposition groups, are scheduled to attend.

The U.S. remains opposed to arming Syria's rebels, which some Gulf states have proposed. Washington is instead working to unify the splintered opposition groups, and find ways to get humanitarian aid into Syria.

Ahead of Sunday's meeting in Istanbul, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said a peace plan put forward by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan is the “minimum” of what Syria must do and must do “urgently and without delay.”

“If that delay continues, and if the people are being killed every day, more and more casualties being in the news, of course the hope for Annan's plan will be lost.”

said Saturday that the bid to overthrow the Syrian government was over, but Damascus would not withdraw its troops from urban areas until stability is restored.

His comments were in a response to the appeal from Mr. Annan for Syria to immediately implement a cease-fire and stop attacks on opposition groups, as part of the peace plan.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to the plan on Tuesday. The peace plan was also endorsed by Arab League leaders who met in Baghdad on Thursday.

Violence has continued in Syria. On Saturday, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA that government shelling and clashes between security forces and protesters had left 25 people dead across Syria on Saturday.

The United Nations says violence linked to Syria's crackdown on the revolt has killed more than 9,000 people.

In a letter to the U.N. on Friday, Syria said acts by “armed terrorist groups” had led to the deaths of more than 6,100 people in Syria since the start of the uprising.