GENEVA, June 27 (Reuters) - Foreign ministers from the global powers and Middle East countries will meet in Geneva on Saturday to work out a way to end the worsening conflict in Syria and bring about a political transition.
International mediator Kofi Annan called the meeting on Wednesday just as the situation in Syria took an even more serious turn, with insurgents attacking a pro-government televison station in Damascus and fighting breaking out in the capital's suburbs.
Annan, who acts as envoy for the United Nations and Arab League, said he had invited foreign ministers from the five permanent U.N. Security Council members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - as well as the European Union, Syria's neighbours Turkey and Iraq, and Kuwait and Qatar.
He made no mention in his statement of Iran, Syria's main regional ally.
The United States, Britain and France have accused Iran of helping President Bashar al-Assad's government to commit atrocities in its campaign to crush the 16-month-old uprising against his rule. They have also accused Tehran of covertly developing atomic weapons, a charge Iran denies.
Annan said the aim of the one-day talks was to identify measures to secure full implementation of his stalled six-point peace plan and Security Council resolutions, including an immediate halt to all violence.
"The Action Group for Syria should also agree on guidelines and principles for a Syrian-led political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people, and agree on actions that will make these objectives a reality on the ground," said Annan, a former U.N. Secretary General and Nobel peace laureate.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague told BBC television
"(Assad) cannot now get back on top of the situation in Syria. His regime I think is doomed. What we don't know is the timescale."
A bloody collapse in Syria should be avoided, Hague said.
"(We should) try to organise a Syrian-led political transition, with the departure of Assad. We need to work together to do so. So that is what we are trying to do with Russia, China and America at the moment."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend the talks. Speaking in Helsinki, Clinton said she had spoken with Annan three times in the last 24 hours.
"He has developed his own very concrete roadmap for political transition. He's been circulating it for comments. I conveyed our support for the plan that he has put forward.
"We believe that it embodies the principles needed for any political transition in Syria that could lead to a peaceful, democratic and representative outcome reflecting the will of the Syrian people," Clinton said.
Clinton added that any country that took part in the talks must supports Annan's transition plan and his original six-point plan, which included a cessation of hostilities and the right to protest freely.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius suggested that a resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which allows the Security Council to authorize actions ranging from sanctions to military intervention, might be necessary.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Arab League head Nabil Elaraby have also been invited to the closed-door talks to be held at the U.N. European headquarters in Geneva.
Diplomats were expected to hold a preliminary meeting in the Swiss city on Friday, an Arab diplomat said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Andrew Quinn in Helsinki, Peter Griffiths in London and John Irish in Paris; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
07/13/2012 1:00 PM EDT
Car Bomb In Damascus
Syrian policemen inspect the site of a car bomb explosion on Mazzeh highway in the capital Damascus on July 13, 2012. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/GettyImages)
07/13/2012 12:00 PM EDT
Susan Rice Condemns Killings
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice tweets:
@ AmbassadorRice :
#Syria regime turned artillery, tanks and helicopters on its own men & women. It unleashed knife-wielding shabiha gangs on its own children.
07/13/2012 11:58 AM EDT
Russia Condemns Massacre
Russia says international envoy Kofi Annan will visit Moscow on Monday to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria. Russia also called for an inquiry into an alleged massacre that took place in the village of Tramseh on Thursday. "We have no doubt that this wrongdoing serves the interests of those powers that are not seeking peace but persistently seek to sow the seeds of interconfessional and civilian conflict on Syrian soil," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters. Moscow did not apportion blame for the killings.
Read more on Reuters.com.
07/13/2012 11:55 AM EDT
Footage Of Massacre Aftermath (WARNING: VIDEO CONTAINS DISTURBING IMAGES)
The Associated Press obtained a video that purports to show the aftermath of an alleged massacre in the village of Tramseh, near Hama.
07/13/2012 9:34 AM EDT
How Do Syrian Fighters Get Their Arms?
How do Syria's fighters get their arms? An overview put together by Reuters explains that there are three gateways to the country -- Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.
Syrian rebels are smuggling small arms into Syria through a network of land and sea routes involving cargo ships and trucks moving through Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, maritime intelligence and Free Syrian Army (FSA) officers say.
Western and regional powers deny any suggestion they are involved in gun running. Their interest in the sensitive border region lies rather in screening to ensure powerful weapons such as surface to air missiles do not find their way to Islamist or other militants.
Read the full report here.
07/13/2012 9:10 AM EDT
Activists Report New Massacre (WARNING: GRAPHIC PHOTOS)
This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a victim wounded by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. The accounts, some of which claim more than 200 people were killed in the violence Thursday, could not be independently confirmed, but would mark the latest in a string of brutal offensives by Syrian forces attempting to crush the rebellion. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)
This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a man mourning a victim killed by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)
07/12/2012 6:50 PM EDT
Hama Revolutionary Council: More Than 220 Killed
According to the Hama Revolutionary Council, a Syrian opposition group, more than 220 people have been killed in a new alleged massacre in Taramseh. Earlier reports said more than 100 people were killed. "More than 220 people fell today in Taramseh," the Council said in a statement. "They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions."
Fadi Sameh, an opposition activist from Taramseh, told Reuters he had left the town before the reported massacre but was in touch with residents. "It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Taramseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling," Sameh claimed.
Read more on Reuters.com.
07/12/2012 6:17 PM EDT
Syrian State TV: 'Large Numbers Of Terrorists Killed'
Syrian activist Rami Jarrah tweets that Syrian State TV has confirmed deaths in Tremseh. "Terrorists" is often the term used by the Syrian regime for opposition forces.
@ AlexanderPageSY :
Syrian State TV: clashes between security apparatus & terrorists in #Tremseh of #Hama leaves large numbers of terrorists killed #Syria
07/12/2012 5:36 PM EDT
Update: Death Toll In New Massacre Reportedly More Than 200
@ Reuters :
UPDATE: DEATH TOLL IN SYRIAN FORCES' ATTACK ON VILLAGE IN SYRIA'S HAMA REGION IS MORE THAN 200, MOSTLY CIVILIANS - OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS
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