2002 GMT: A late-afternoon surprise from the State Department. While we could have guessed that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be traveling to Turkey for the "Friends of Syria" meeting, we were not aware that she would be traveling to Saudi Arabia to discuss Syria first:
ecretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from March 30-31, 2012. While in Riyadh, she will meet King Abdullah and Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal. She will also attend the First Ministerial Meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council-U.S. Strategic Cooperation Forum. In her conversations, she will discuss the full range of bilateral and regional issues, including ongoing security cooperation in the region, as well as the international community’s continuing efforts to stop the bloodshed in Syria.
Secretary Clinton will then travel to Istanbul, Turkey from March 31-April 1 to attend the second meeting of the “Friends of the Syrian People.” This meeting will build upon steps that our friends, allies, and the Syrian opposition continue to take in an attempt to halt the slaughter of the Syrian people and pursue a transition to democracy in Syria. While in Istanbul, Secretary Clinton will also conduct bilateral meetings with Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu and other foreign leaders.
What does this mean? We could read a lot into a short statement, but it certainly means that Clinton is seeking regional unity on Syria. Remember that Saudi Arabia walked out of the last "Friends of Syria" meeting because of a lack of perceived progress in ending the crisis. Whatever the FoS decides, they will look weak and illegitimate without the backing of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and the other major regional players.
1957 GMT: The Syrian government has banned all male citizens under the age of 42 from traveling internationally: