Clinton to Pressure Russia on Syrian Crisis
by VOA News June 29, 2012
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 were to 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. The Russian foreign ministry said Friday it viewed the meeting as a "positive step" to address the crisis.
Annan said in The Washington Post that the future of Syria "must include" a unity government that could have members of the present government, the opposition and other groups. But he warned the government would need to exclude members "whose continued presence" would "undermine the credibility of the transition and jeopardize stability." He did not specifically name President Bashar al-Assad.
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 Assad to relinquish power.
Syrian opposition groups say they will not accept any political transition plan that lacks an explicit call for Assad to step down.
Syrian forces pounded the Damascus suburb of Douma with artillery Friday, after one of the deadliest days since the uprising began last March. Syrian rights activists say violence across the country killed at least 180 people Thursday.
The United States said Thursday escalating violence in and around Damascus is a result of Assad assaulting the Syrian people and is a sign that he is losing control of the capital.
Clinton said in Latvia Thursday that any solution must comply with international standards on human rights, accountable governance, the rule of law and equal opportunity for all Syrian people. She said the Annan framework lays out how to arrive at that.
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