- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 27, 2012

HELSINKI (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday she has “great hope” that an upcoming Geneva meeting of world powers can be a turning point in the Syria crisis. Mrs. Clinton said the U.S. supports U.N. envoy Kofi Annan’s plan for political transition in Syria.

Mr. Annan “has developed his own very concrete road map for political transition” from the Assad regime, Mrs. Clinton said at a news conference at the start of her three-country European tour. “We believe it embodies the principles needed for any political transition in Syria that could lead to a peaceful, democratic and representative outcome reflecting the will of the Syrian people.”

The violence in Syria has worsened since a cease-fire deal in April, and the bloodshed appears to be taking on more dangerous, sectarian overtones, the United Nations said Wednesday. The U.N.’s deputy envoy for Syria, Jean-Marie Guehenno, told the U.N. Human Rights Council that the violence in Syria has “reached or even surpassed” levels seen before the April 12 cease-fire agreement and that Mr. Annan’s six-point peace plan “is clearly not being implemented.”

Reflecting the sense of urgency, Mr. Annan, a former U.N. secretary-general, has summoned permanent members of the U.N. Security Council for a conference on Syria but has not invited Iran or Saudi Arabia, two of the biggest regional players. Mr. Annan’s announcement cited invitations to the five veto-wielding council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Turkey. Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines said Mrs. Clinton plans to attend the meeting on Saturday.

Mrs. Clinton said she has “great hope” the meeting can be “a turning point in the very tragic circumstances affecting the Syrian people at this time.”

Syrian President Bashar Assad “has relied on the support of Russia and China in the Security Council to prevent the international community from taking unified action,” Mrs. Clinton said. Russia and China, two of the Security Council’s five permanent members, twice have shielded Syria from U.N. sanctions.

“If Kofi Annan is able to lay down a political transition road map that is endorsed by countries including Russia and China, for example, that sends a very different message,” Mrs. Clinton said. “That’s the first time the international community will have really evidenced a direction that I think Assad will have to respond to.”

She added: “If he is able to get people there who up until now have either been on the sidelines or actively supporting or protecting the Assad regime, then that gives heart to the opposition. It also disheartens a lot of the regime insiders.”