Syria dominates international agenda

2012-06-06 14:41

Istanbul - Ministers from some 30 countries, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, will meet in Turkey on Thursday at an anti-terror forum overshadowed by Syria's crisis and Iran's nuclear threat.

The meeting comes as Western powers are pushing for increased pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad to stop his regime's assault against the population.

Despite claiming to have agreed to mediator Kofi Annan's peace plan for a ceasefire on 12 April, violence in Syria continues and as many as 2 400 of the more than 13 500 people killed since the uprising began in March 2011 died after a UN-backed ceasefire was meant to take effect, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.

Iran's nuclear programme is also set to top the agenda at the ministerial forum, the second of its kind, after one in New York last September.

Clinton, whose visit to Istanbul would end a nine-day trip around Scandinavia and the Caucasus, will attend the first day of the two-day forum. She will also hold a joint press conference with her Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.

Nuclear ambitions

"A wide range of subjects are on the menu - boosting the fight against terror is obviously one... but also other current topics such as the situation in Syria and Iran's nuclear programme," a Turkish diplomat told AFP.

The European Union will be represented by its foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is also due to meet with Turkish diplomats.

World powers believe Iran has military nuclear ambitions, while Tehran has insisted its programme is peaceful.

Ankara's so-far fruitless attempt at playing middleman between Tehran and world powers on the topic is also expected to be raised during the Istanbul meeting, Turkish and European diplomats said.

Meanwhile, Turkey would also use the forum to seek "closer co-operation" against Kurdish separatists' financial and political branches in Europe, the Turkish diplomat said.

The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and by much of the international community, took up arms in Kurdish-majority south-eastern Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45 000 lives.

Kurdish separatists use their bases in northern Iraq as a springboard for attacks into Turkey's southeast.