BREAKING: Clinton, Lavrov to debate Syria in Russia today

Remember: It is the people in the streets that are driving this process, amidst this weekend's flurry of great power diplomatic activity, and in spite Assad's unprecedented military assault on them, the protesters again hit the streets in their thousands after Friday pray in Syria today.

(06-29-2012) Saraqib | Idlib | Friday of We Are Confident of Victory - Free Syria

Protest in Maraa, near Aleppo, on Friday.

Beautiful photo of a protest in ‪#Damascus‬. God protect them 10:39 AM - 29 Jun 12

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In a surprising new development, US Secretary of State Hilliary Clinton is to meet with Russian FM Sergei Lavrov in St. Petersburg, Russia to discuss the situation in Syria ahead of the United Nations Syria Action Group meeting in Geneva on Saturday. Obviously a lot is hinging on this meeting. The LA Times just posted this an 90 minutes ago, and the AP announcement is near the end of the video below:

Syria on agenda as Clinton, Lavrov meet in St. Petersburg
June 29, 2012 | 7:25 am

BEIRUT -- The tough-talking U.S. secretary of State faces off with a wily Russian statesman Friday at a meeting that could help determine the fate of strife-ridden Syria.

Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov is scheduled to host Hillary Rodham Clinton in St. Petersburg, Russia, at a pivotal moment in stalled diplomatic efforts to craft a solution for the Syrian crisis. The two top envoys with greatly contrasting styles have tussled verbally from afar in recent weeks about the issue.

This news is breaking as Russian eminent a variety of signals with regards to crucial question of their stand on the future of Assad in Syria with tweets like the one below being the latest.

The Telegraph has also picked up the story, 3:20PM BST 29 Jun 2012:

Clinton and Lavrov set for showdown over Syria transition plan

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were heading for a face-to-face showdown over Syria on Friday as major powers prepared for a weekend conference to hash out a political transition plan for the country.

On the eve of Saturday's conference aimed at ending 16 months of brutal violence in Syria, Clinton and Lavrov were to meet in St. Petersburg in a bid to iron out deep differences over the transition plan being pushed by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan that calls for the formation of a national unity government that would oversee the drafting of a new constitution and elections.

U.S. officials are adamant that the plan will not allow Syrian President Bashar Assad to remain in power at the top of the transitional government, but Russia insists that outsiders cannot dictate the ultimate solution or the composition of the interim administration.

Annan laid out his expectations for the weekend conference in an op-ed in The Washington Post. The future government in Syria, he said "must include a government of national unity that would exercise full executive powers. This government could include members of the present government and the opposition and other groups, but those whose continued presence and participation would undermine the credibility of the transition and jeopardize stability and reconciliation would be excluded."

Such a proposal does not explicitly bar Assad, but the U.S. and other western powers who will participate in the conference said that is implicit.

Today RIA Novosti is reporting:

Moscow Upbeat on Syria Conference

Moscow hopes the international conference on Syria will facilitate the country’s progress to peace, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

The conference will take place on Saturday in Geneva.

There is no alternative to a “peaceful political settlement in Syria,” the ministry said in a statement.

The conference should consider all the viable mechanisms of ensuring a ceasefire in the Middle Eastern country, the ministry said, adding that they should facilitate the start of a “nationwide political dialogue in Syria between the government and all opposition groups.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said the Syrian government is ready to withdraw its armed forces from the country's cities in parallel with the forces of the Syrian opposition.

Russia has said the Geneva conference should include all the permanent members of the UN Security Council, Syria's neighbors (Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon), as well as key players in the region (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran) and international organizations (League of Arab States, European Union).

Yesterday RIA Novosti reported on Lavrov's press conference:

Russia Would Not Support Intervention in Syria, Lavrov
14:14 28/06/2012
MOSCOW, June 28 (RIA Novosti) - Russia would not lend its support to any plans for outside interference in Syria which may be voiced at the upcoming international conference in Geneva, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday.

“We will not, and would not be able to support any outside interference or imposition of recipes [in Syria],” Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow.

Syria needs political transformation, but its nature should be defined by Syrian people only, the minister said.

UN envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, reportedly proposed on Wednesday creation of an interim government in the country comprising both opposition members and President Bashar al-Assad loyalists, but not necessarily Assad himself.

Lavrov denied media reports that Russia has agreed to support Annan’s plan, which could be approved at the conference in Geneva on Saturday. The resolution for the conference is still being drafted, he said.

“The fate of President Bashar al-Assad should be decided by the Syrians themselves,” Lavrov added.

The Foreign Minister also said that he did not expect any NATO members to push for a repetition of a “Libyan scenario” in Syria.

Its tomorrow already in Australia, so tomorrow the Brisbane Times said events on the ground are driving the process beyond the control of the diplomats:

Hopes fade for crisis talks as Syrian conflict worsens
Ruth Pollard
June 30, 2012
IN THE face of a dramatically deteriorating conflict in Syria, major powers are set to meet in Geneva today to discuss a UN plan for an interim transitional government.

Yet many fear the security situation has disintegrated so much that even if Syria's key ally Russia were to throw its support behind the plan, the rebel Free Syrian Army could reject the proposal.

''Too much blood has been shed,'' one observer noted.

The last-ditch meeting in Geneva is taking place in the shadow of worsening tensions between Syria and neighbouring Turkey, as the fallout continues from Syria's downing of a Turkish military jet earlier in the week.

Turkey has begun deploying rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns along its border with Syria, where thousands of terrified and injured refugees have poured across in the past few months.

Since March, more than 500 Syrian refugees have crossed the country's borders every day, bringing the number of Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey to more than 90,000 people, the United Nations said. More than 75 per cent are women and children.

''The speed of the conflict has accelerated in the last week and it is now a very dynamic situation where there is increased sectarian violence, a growing number of defections … and a more proficient Free Syrian Army,'' warned Mona Yacoubian, senior Middle East adviser at the Stimson Centre in Washington.

''People are no longer talking about the fact that [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad may hang on for years - that is just not a reality any more. We cannot rule out the possibility that we are heading towards a total regime collapse, which is not ideal without a plan in place.''

There are not high hopes for a positive outcome from this weekend's meeting in Geneva. Beyond Russia's agreement, there must be firm plans for power-sharing arrangements, including what elements of the military apparatus will be maintained as well as guarantees for the protection of Christian and Alawite minorities, she said.

''In the end, the FSA may well reject an internationally endorsed transition plan - they are gaining momentum on the ground and it may be precisely because they are gaining ground that the Russians might be more likely to agree to the transition plan.''

Turkey's move to fortify its border with Syria is a key part of this conflict that is now evolving at alarming speed, Ms Yacoubian said.

''It may create an opportunity for the rebels themselves to lay claim to a safe zone on the Syrian side, creating the buffer zone for refugees that many have been asking for.''

RIA Novosti is now reporting on the results of the meeting:

Good Chance to Implement Annan Plan on Syria - Lavrov
23:57 29/06/2012
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov believes that the international community has a good chance in Geneva of finding a path forward to stimulate the implementation of Kofi Annan's Plan on the Syrian conflict.

"We have a very good chance tomorrow in Geneva to find a common denominator and find a path forward in order to stimulate the implementation of of Annan's Plan from both sides of the Syrian [conflict]," Lavrov said during a briefing after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in St. Petersburg.
Lavrov has said the Syrian government is ready to withdraw its armed forces from the country's cities in parallel with the forces of the Syrian opposition.

Lavrov also noted that he felt a change in the United States' position after speaking with Clinton about Syria.

"I felt there was a change in that no ultimatums were voiced, or that the paper that is now being discussed (results from the Geneva meeting) is not subject to change," Lavrov said.

NY Times: Syria's deadliest day with many killed in Douma

Here at the DailyKos I broke the news of a massive new attack on Douma, Syria as it happened. See BREAKING: Douma, Syria under massive attack, another massacre feared. Now the NY Times is reporting that day as the deadliest yet in Syria with a 190 Syrians killed, many in Doama:

Syrian Groups Say Bloody Day Left High Toll of Civilians

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian opposition groups that track casualties reported on Friday that the previous day was the deadliest so far this year, and possibly in the entire Syrian uprising, with as many as 190 civilians killed in a 24-hour period.

The dead on Thursday were scattered in towns and cities throughout Syria, with the largest number concentrated in the Damascus suburb of Douma, about eight miles northwest of the city, according to reports from both the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group based in Britain, and the Local Coordination Committees, a Syrian-based group.
The dead on Thursday were scattered in towns and cities throughout Syria, with the largest number concentrated in the Damascus suburb of Douma, about eight miles northwest of the city, according to reports from both the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group based in Britain, and the Local Coordination Committees, a Syrian-based group.

A destroyed helicopter in the Northern city of Idlib, Syria. Note rockets still attached.

Two of Bashar al-Assad's secret police generals have been captured by Syrian freedom fighers 6-28-2012

Comment with video:

Payback is Definitely Going to Hurt for these Two Serial Killers - The Syria Freedom Fighters have now Captured 2 Assad Secret Police Generals - one who slaughtered political prisoners at Sednaya jail - see the Maher video - (I would hate to be in his shoes) 6-28-12 One guy was captured on 6-26-12 in the middle of Damascus so the Dictator now knows that no place is safe for the criminal elements of the fascist alawite baathist regime - The other one was captured on 6-28-12 -- One guy is originally from Latakia and other is from Suwaida -- The general's name is Brigadier General Munir Ahmed Chleba (who helped slaughter hundreds of jailed political prisoners at Sednaya prison) and the other is Major General Faraj Shehadeh

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