Top US Diplomat to Pressure Russia on Syrian Crisis

Posted June 29th, 2012 at 5:40 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds talks with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov Friday, ahead of an international conference on the Syrian crisis.

Clinton and Lavrov will meet in St. Petersburg in an effort to resolve differences over a transition plan for Syria.

World and regional powers plan to gather in Geneva for a Saturday meeting called by international peace envoy Kofi Annan, who wants them to agree on new ideas for dealing with the Syrian conflict. U.N. diplomatic sources say Annan is proposing the formation of a Syrian unity government that does not explicitly exclude Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but would bar those whose participation could undermine the country's stability.

Lavrov has said any solution to the crisis must be decided by Syrians themselves. He said Russia, a longtime ally of the Assad government, will not support external meddling.

Throughout the Syria crisis, Russia has refused to call for Mr. Assad to relinquish power.

Syrian opposition groups say they will not accept any political transition plan that lacks an explicit call for Mr. Assad to step down.

On Thursday, Clinton said in Latvia that any solution must comply with international standards on human rights, accountable governance, the rule of law and equal opportunity for all Syrian people. Clinton said the Annan framework lays out how to arrive at that.

Also Thursday, the United States said escalating violence in and around Damascus is a result of Mr. Assad assaulting the Syrian people and is a sign that he is losing control of the capital.

A bomb exploded near Syria's main judiciary complex, known as the Palace of Justice, in central Damascus Thursday, wounding three people. A day earlier, militants attacked a pro-government private TV station on the capital's outskirts, killing three journalists and four security guards. Syria's government blamed the attacks on armed terrorists whom it says are behind the country's 15-month uprising against Mr. Assad's rule.

U.S. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said Thursday President Assad has created the conditions for a loss of government control in Damascus and elsewhere by “perpetrating violence against his own people.”