U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended a "strategic forum" between the United States and the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council in Saudi Arabia Saturday to discuss issues that included bringing an end to Syria's crackdown on dissent and countering the growing threat of Iran.
The forum took place on the eve the 60-nation "Friends of the Syria" meeting in Turkey Sunday, aimed at boosting opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. 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, and is instead working to unify the splintered opposition groups, and find ways to get humanitarian aid into the country.
A Look at the "Friends of Syria" Meeting in Istanbul
- Attendees: Representatives of more than 70 Western and Arab countries, the opposition Syrian National Council and a delegation for U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan
- Goals: The group is expected to discuss plans for ending Syria's deadly anti-government unrest; The group may endorse a peace plan crafted by Annan
- Last Meeting: The "Friends of Syria" met in Tunisia on February 24. It sought a pledge from Syria to halt violence and allow the delivery of humanitarian aid
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 "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," he said.
Syria's regime declared Saturday that the bid to topple President Assad was over, but that it would not withdraw its troops from urban areas until stability is restored.
Meanwhile, violence in Syria continued. 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 Saturday.
The United Nations says more than 9,000 people have been killed since unrest in Syria began more than a year ago.
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.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.