An international meeting to coordinate sanctions on the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad is being held in Tokyo.
Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, told the “Friends of Syria” group the international community had to act together where the divided United Nations Security Council had failed.
“The violence has continued for more than 20 months and the number of casualties in Syria has surpassed 40,000 and counting today, causing a humanitarian crisis,” he told representatives from 67 countries.
“We are gravely concerned about the spillover of the crisis to the entire region.
“While the United Nations Security Council has been unable to assume its primary responsibility, it’s increasingly important for the international community to act as one in order to deal with” the continuing violence.
Host Japan says Friday’s talks will give participating countries a forum to review the effectiveness of sanctions already in place. They will also consider new measures to stop the violence that has erupted in Syria, resulting in a civil war that activists say has killed 36,000 people.
“Friends of Syria” coalition, including the U.S., the European Union and Arab League, last met in September. The group was established after the U.N. Security Council failed to agree on a resolution condemning the Syrian regime, due to opposition from Russia and China.
Current sanctions include a freeze on Assad’s assets and an embargo on oil and arms trade.
Meanwhile, the fifth “sanctions working group” meeting in Tokyo saw the first participation from four countries -- Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Indonesia and Bangladesh, Gemba said.
On Thursday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington was weighing what further help it could give the Syrian opposition rebels.
But she stopped short of saying whether the United States would recognize the newly-formed Syrian National Coalition, which is seeking to oust Assad, as the sole representative of the Syrian people, as several European countries have done.
Privately, U.S. officials have said the Obama administration will likely go ahead and recognize the group at some point.