There's nothing like a vague threat to show you mean business. The U.S., European, and Arab states are set to implore Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to agree to a cease-fire or else face "unspecified punishments," reports the Associated Press. The nearly 70 nations that make up the Friends of Syria group are meeting in the capital of Tunisia today and will demand the president halt the escalation in violence in his country and allow humanitarian aid workers to assist the most war-ravaged areas of Syria. If Assad were to agree, the UN would then send a peacekeeping contingency into the country. "The language in the statement will allow UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to begin recruiting nations to join the peacekeeping force, billed as a non-military operation, and start identifying its mandate," reports the AP.
Unfortunately, Assad has rebuffed similar demands in the past, and given that China and Russia haven't changed their position, it's not clear that the coalition has any more leverage than before. Giving an update of the violence in the country in today's The New York Times, Steven Lee Myers and Alan Cowell write that Syrian activists in the central city of Homs reported "resumed bombardment by pro-Assad forces on Friday, three weeks to the day after the government’s effort to forcibly subdue the area opened one of the bloodiest chapters of the so-called Arab Spring."
In total, the conflict has seen more than 5,400 people killed.