By Ivan Watson
ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday the United States would start to develop contingency plans with its Turkish allies in the event that the embattled Syrian regime collapses.
Her announcement in Istanbul came 17 months into an escalating crisis that has claimed more than 17,000 lives and forced an estimated 150,000 refugees to flee into neighboring nations, including Turkey, which is hosting 50,000 people.
"There is a very clear understanding about the need to end this conflict quickly, but not doing it in a way that produces even more deaths, injuries and destruction," Clinton said after talks with her Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Turkey, which is in the process of building four more refugee camps, has long been calling for more U.S. support in dealing with the Syrian crisis.
"We would like to see more support from the U.S. on Syria," said a senior Turkish government official. "Sometimes we feel very much alone."
He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
Turkey has also hosted Syrian groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad's regime and is a vital transport route for opposition fighters and weapons into Syria.
After a first round of discussions between Clinton and Davutoglu,Turkish officials said Washington was finally recognizing the gravity of the situation.
"I think they are now understanding," said an official from Turkey's foreign ministry, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official said Clinton's team specifically requested Saturday's talks focus on the Syria crisis.
"They want to be more proactive, more engaged, more included," the Turkish diplomat said.
Clinton highlighted three areas of concern as fighting rages within Syria: massive displacement and migration of affected Syrians, preventing chaos in a power vacuum and checking the threat of chemical weapons.
"Our goal, No. 1, is to hasten the end of the bloodshed and the Assad regime. That is our strategic goal, and we have to analyze everything against that goal," Clinton said.
Clinton announced an extra $5 million in aid for the United Nations refugee agency. Washington was already providing $25 million in non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition, including communications equipment.
Davutoglu raised concerns about the rise of regional terrorist groups amid instability, specifically the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels who have fought a cross-border guerrilla war against the Turkish state for more than a quarter century.
In recent weeks, PKK members have raised the movement's flag over several ethnic Kurdish communities along Syria's border with Turkey, triggering alarms in Ankara.
"Yes, we worry about terrorists, PKK, al Qaeda and others taking advantage of the legitimate fight of the Syrian people for their freedom, to use Syria to promote their own agendas, and even to perhaps find footholds to launch attacks against others," Clinton said.
One analyst said Clinton's meeting with Turkish officials "had to do with implications of Aleppo operations" and the possibility of an extended influx of refugees from Aleppo into Turkey.
"But more importantly, there is essentially a pocket of territory north of Aleppo that is outside regime control," said Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
"If the opposition declares it liberated territory, Turkey and the U.S. will be under pressure to set up a safe zone in one way or another," he said.
Clinton did not specifically address the issue of a safe zone or a no-fly zone in Turkey, but she said that any action taken should not catalyze more brutality.
"It's one thing to talk about all kinds of potential actions, but you cannot make reasoned decisions without doing intense analysis and operational planning," she said.
In Turkey, Clinton also met with Syrian opposition activists whom she described as being committed to building a pluralistic, democratic and inclusive society.
One activist, who did not want to be named because U.S. officials requested participants not talk to the media, said Clinton asked questions about opposition figures inside Syria.
"She wanted to know who the U.S. should give money to, and who they should not give money to," the activist said.
Saturday's diplomacy in Istanbul occurred amid fresh fighting in Syria.
At least 35 people were killed Saturday, the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) for Syria said, including nine in Daraa and nine in Aleppo, Syria's largest city that has become a key battleground.
Syrian state-run TV proclaimed success against "armed terrorist groups" in Aleppo, saying "our armed forces managed to kill and injure a number of these terrorists in these clashes."
The LCC reported heavy aerial bombardment and two missiles landing on residential buildings.
In the capital, Damascus, the LCC reported an explosion followed by heavy gunfire in the central city.
"The capital city is experiencing an uneasy calm after a powerful explosion and heavy gunfire were heard in a number of neighborhoods at the city center," the LCC said. "It is assumed that the explosion was targeting regime forces' vehicles passing through Marjeh Square."
Clinton's trip to Turkey came on the heels of new U.S. sanctions announced Friday that are aimed at weakening al-Assad's hand by focusing on Lebanon-based Hezbollah's support for the regime.
Washington, which has designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization supported by Iran, charges that the group has provided training, advice and extensive logistical support to al-Assad's military campaign against the uprising.
The State Department accused the group of training Syrian government personnel inside Syria and facilitating the training of Syrian forces by the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.
"Hezbollah's extensive support to the Syrian government's violent suppression of the Syrian people exposes the true nature of this terrorist organization and its destabilizing presence in the region," David S. Cohen, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.
Washington also sanctioned the refiner Sytrol for selling $36 million of gasoline in April to Iran, a close ally of the Syrian regime.
About 17,000 people have been killed since the fighting began, the United Nations said last month. Opposition activists have put the toll at more than 20,000.
CNN's Saad Abedine, Moni Basu, Jamie Crawford and Lesa Jansen contributed to this report.