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Friends of Syria gather as bombing continues

Friends of Syria gather as bombing continues
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Opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are meeting Western leaders in Istanbul, Turkey on Sunday.

The Friends of Syria gathering will discuss progress on UN Special Envoy, Kofi Annan’s six-point plan to end bloodshed in the country.

The plan does not call for Assad to quit, although many Western powers and Turkey have said he must go.

But talking to euronews, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that did not necessarily put Ankara at odds with the plan.

“If Mr Annan’s efforts are exploited by the Syrian regime to win time to deploy more violence then it does,” he said.

“The violence we have seen over the last couple of days shows that this is their intention. Then Mr Annan must clearly oppose that.”

And Mr Davutoglu warned Turkey – which borders Syria – had its own interests to consider.

“We are determined to assume our responsibility as human beings regarding our Syrian neighbours,” he said. “We are determined to do so with the international community. But if Turkey’s interests and national security are threatened, then Turkey has every right to take all necessary measures to protect its national security”

Damascus claims the uprising is all but over and troops are now working to maintain peace and will begin a gradual withdrawal from trouble spots.

Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Maqdisi said armed opposition was slowing a political solution and that 60 per cent of the problem was down to those backing the opposition from abroad.

On the ground, the bombardment of Homs appeared to be continuing into the weekend.

But the likelihood of a Western-led military intervention or Gulf Arab states arming rebels has virtually evaporated while the opposition itself remains divided.