Opposition figures meet in Damascus

More than 150 intellectuals and opposition figures met in Damascus today to discuss the current crisis and propose solutions.

The meeting will be the first of its kind since the uprising began in March and it will not include members of the government. It also does not include members of political parties.

Veteran activists are in attendance such as Michel Kilo, Aref Dallila and Louay Hussein, but others boycotted the conference because they said it would allow the government to appear to be accommodating dissenting voices without offering widespread concessions.

The "national dialogue" talked about by President Bashar al-Assad in last Monday’s speech has not yet been convened. Most opposition figures have rejected the dialogue, in which 100 people will be picked by the government to participate, insisting the crackdown must end first.

Unrest at borders with Lebanon and Turkey escalates

Turkey and Lebanon are showing signs of increasing worry over the prospect of the uprising in Syria affecting them, due to the growing influx of refugees and a widening military campaign.

According to one prominent activist, Syrian forces moved into the town of Qusier near Homs (and only 15km from the Lebanese border) on Sunday, and hundreds to fled across the border in anticipation of clashes.

Syrian troops were also reported to be continuing to secure towns in the north near the border with Turkey.

Following on from operations in Jisr al-Shughour and Khirbet al-Jouz, tanks were reported to be rolling into the village of al-Najia on Sunday.

Al-Watan, a pro-government daily newspaper, said that Khirbet al-Joz was a “key crossing for armed groups from and to the Turkish” border.

The army was “now professionally cleansing” the village of armed gangs, securing roads and protecting residents, it reported.

Speaker: Syria will ‘overcome uprising within two months’

Syria hopes to gain control over the protests that have swept the country since March ‘in two months’, according to the speaker of Syria’s parliament, the People’s Assembly.

Syrian parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Abrash said the unrest, which has lasted for more than four months and shows little signs of abating, is a “temporary difficulty” during talks with a Russian diplomat in Damascus.

"It is important that any changes should be made in accordance with the yearnings of the people," he said.

"We are talking about the creation of a democratic and free society. Both the authorities and opposition want this," Yassir Houria, a member of the ruling Baath party, told a Russian news agency.

Embassies prepare for evacuations

A Western intelligence report has shown that European countries are preparing their embassy staff in Beirut and Damascus for the eventuality of evacuations in the coming days, the Lebanese Daily Star reported.

The plans are precautionary, according to the report, and include short-term and medium-term plans for the evacuation of foreign nationals to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, should the crisis reach “unprecedented levels”.

Syria Today (Syria)