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27-03-2012 - Gulf Times

Clinton to hold talks with GCC foreign ministers

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will late this week launch a new diplomatic drive aimed at ending the bloodshed in Syria, making visits to Saudi Arabia and Turkey, officials said yesterday.

Clinton will meet in Riyadh with Saudi King Abdullah and Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal as well as foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia's five Gulf Arab neighbours, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

The chief US diplomat's talks are set for Friday and Saturday, just before she attends the second "Friends of Syria" meeting on Sunday in Istanbul that will draw not just Arab delegates but also those from Turkey and Western powers.

The disparate Syrian opposition is expected to attend.

In Riyadh, Clinton will attend the first ministerial meeting of the Gulf Co-operation Council-US strategic co-operation forum, which is likely to also discuss the perceived threat from Iran across the Gulf.

"She will discuss the full range of bilateral and regional issues, including ongoing security co-operation in the region, as well as the international community's continuing efforts to stop the bloodshed in Syria," Nuland said.

Repeating an announcement she made last week, Nuland said Clinton will later Saturday travel to the Turkish city of Istanbul to attend the second meeting of the "Friends of the Syrian People".

The grouping is also known as the "Friends of Syria".

Nuland says the new meeting will build on efforts in Tunis last month to end the violence, enable the delivery of humanitarian aid and launch a political process aimed at replacing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"This meeting will build upon steps that our friends, allies, and the Syrian opposition continue to take in an attempt to halt the slaughter of the Syrian people and pursue a transition to democracy in Syria," Nuland said.

"While in Istanbul, Secretary Clinton will also conduct bilateral meetings with Turkish Foreign Minister (Ahmet) Davutoglu and other foreign leaders," the statement said.


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