The US secretary of state and her Russian counterpart will push to find common ground on the Syrian conflict at a summit in St Petersburg. The meeting comes as bomb blasts struck Damascus and Syrian President Assad pledged to “annihilate terrorists.”
The two powers are expected to discuss Kofi Annan’s unity government plan ahead of a crucial meeting on Syria in Geneva on Saturday, which will bring together UN Security Council members, European and some Middle East countries.
Annan’s plan does not call for Assad’s ouster, but pushes for the creation of a transitional government that would exclude figures that jeopardize stability.
Washington is a strong advocate of a political transition plan in Syria that stipulates the removal of President Assad. However, Russia categorically opposes the idea that other countries should dictate the future of Syria, believing that the decision is up to Syrians themselves.
"We will not support and cannot support any meddling from outside or any imposition of recipes. This also concerns the fate of the president of the country, Bashar al-Assad," Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on the eve of the meeting.
A number of opposition groups, including the Free Syria Army have refused to comply with any plan that does not include the step-down of Assad.
The outcome of Clinton and Lavrov’s meeting in St Petersburg could set the precedent for the success of the negotiations in Geneva.
Moscow and Washington’s positions on Syria are too far apart to expect any real result from the Lavrov-Clinton meeting, says Veronika Krasheninnikova, director general of the Institute for Foreign Policy Research and Initiatives (INVISSIN) in Moscow.
Russia insists it is up to Syrians to decide on their leaders, while the US is seeking to remove President Assad and his government at any cost. Regarding Washington’s policy, Krasheninnikova also questions the actual aims behind the six-point peace plan brought to Syria by UN special envoy Kofi Annan.
“Kofi Annan’s role in the Syria situation has been quite destabilizing, I would say,” Krasheninnikova told RT. “That was a plan clearly geared to the advantage of the opposition. Also these few months when the world tried to implement the plan gave the opposition time to be trained and supplied with weapons.”
” she added.
Meanwhile, in a rare interview with Iranian television on Thursday Syrian president Assad rejected any solution to the conflict that was imposed from outside the country.
"We will not accept any non-Syrian, non-national model, whether it comes from big countries or friendly countries. No one knows how to solve Syria's problems as well as we do," he said.
During the hour-long interview Assad pledged to “annihilate terrorists in any corner of the country,” describing it as the government’s duty.
"When you eliminate a terrorist, it's possible that you are saving the lives of tens, hundreds, or even thousands," he told Syrian state television.
The Syrian president’s words followed with twin bomb attacks that struck the Syrian capital on Thursday. The blasts went off close to Damascus’ Palace of Justice and injured three people, reported Syrian state television.