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Friends of Syria meeting to call for ceasefire

International community seeks breakthrough as violence in Syria continues.

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Activists say this house in the country's northwest was hit by a shell fired by Syrian regime forces on February 22. (Bulent Kilic /AFP/Getty Images)

The newly-formed Friends of Syria group is expected to demand an immediate halt to violence in Syria, Reuters reported, with foreign relations officials from over 50 countries gathering in Tunisia today for the group's first meeting. 

The event comes a day after a report from the UN described the government-led violence there as evidence of crimes against humanity.

Syria has been in the grip of a bloody political crisis for the past 11 months, with hardline President Bashar al-Assad launching a brutal crackdown on anti-government unrest that has killed at least 5,400 people. International efforts to quell the escalating humanitarian crisis have not succeeded. The city of Homs, where AP reported two foreign journalists were killed on Wednesday, has been under a government-led seige since February 4.

Today's meeting is meant to hammer out a concrete proposal for getting help to Syrian citizens, establish a plan to for political transition, and discuss ways to isolate Assad's regime, according to Foreign Policy.

A State Department official traveling with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said there is a lot of "concern" about getting "the right type of humanitarian and medical assistance [into Syria] that people need," telling reporters in London on Thursday that any measures adopted by the Friends of Syria group today will still need the agreement of the Syrian regime, said FP

More from Global Post: UN accuses Syrian officials of 'crimes against humanity'

Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, who was appointed Thursday as the joint United Nations-Arab League envoy on the Syrian crisis, will also be attending the meeting. Assad allies China and Russia will not, according to BBC

On Thursday, Clinton announced that if there was no diplomatic breakthrough for the Syrian opposition, they will arm themselves and go on the offensive, Reuters reported

Her comments came as BBC reported Syrian activists saying over 90 people were killed throughout the country on Thursday.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120224/friends-syria-meeting-call-ceasefire