INTERNATIONAL >Clinton to visit Turkey Saturday for Syria talks

LILONGWE - Agence France-Presse

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. AFP Photo

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. AFP Photo

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Turkey next Saturday for talks on the conflict in Syria, a State Department spokeswoman said.
"Clinton goes to Istanbul for bilateral consultations with the Turkish government on Syria as well as to cover other timely issues," the spokeswoman told reporters in the Malawian capital Lilongwe.
Clinton, who arrived in Malawi on the latest leg of her Africa tour, has added trips to Nigeria and Benin before travelling to Istanbul, the spokeswoman said.
The conflict in Syria has claimed more than 21,000 lives since the regime of President Bashar al-Assad launched a brutal crackdown on dissent in March last year, according to opposition activists.
President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed at the end of July to accelerate political change in Syria, including Assad leaving power.
Ankara has become a champion of the uprising against Assad's Syrian regime and given refuge to large numbers of army defectors, who have formed the kernel of a rebel army -- called the Free Syrian Army -- as well as tens of thousands of civilian refugees.
Since the conflict in Syria erupted in March last year 18 generals have defected to Turkey.
Some 44,000 Syrians fleeing unrest in their homeland have also flooded refugee camps in the country.
Syria's second city Aleppo has been the scene of fierce fighting since the rebels launched a major offensive on July 20 from rear bases across the nearby border with Turkey.
In retaliation the Syrian regime has poured tanks, helicopter gunships and warplanes into Aleppo troops firing on a string of rebel neighbourhoods in its southwest in the battle to control the commercial hub.
Turkey moved troops to its border with Syria in June after a Turkish Phantom F-4 jet was shot down by Syria over the eastern Mediterranean in what Erdogan called a "heinous attack" over international waters.
A month later Turkey deployed armoured combat vehicles, troops, ammunition and missile to strengthen the fortified border.
The UN General Assembly on Friday voted overwhelmingly to condemn the Security Council for its failure to act and it condemned the regime for using heavy weapons.
Russia and China voted against the resolution and have already vetoed three Security Council resolutions on Syria. Both have justified their vetoes by saying western nations want to force the downfall of Assad.
The stalemate in negotiating an end to the conflict last Thursday caused envoy Kofi Annan to resign, who cited frustration over the failure of an April peace plan to take hold.


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