Japan hopes SE Asia nations will attend Syria meeting

AFP , Wednesday 14 Nov 2012

Japan hopes Southeast Asian nations would be represented during an awaited Tokyo meeting on Syria aimed at mounting pressure on President Bashar Al-Assad

Damaged buildings are pictured in the Salah Eldine district in Aleppo November 13, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

A meeting in Tokyo later this month aimed at increasing pressure on the Syrian regime could include several Southeast Asian countries, Japanese officials said Wednesday.

The November 30 meeting will bring together senior government officials from the "Friends of Syria Group" supporting the Syrian opposition and will focus on making sanctions more effective, a foreign ministry official said.

It will be the first time the meeting has been held in Asia, said the official, adding Tokyo was hoping Southeast Asian nations would be represented.

Thailand has attended previous meetings of the Friends of Syria Group, which were held in Paris in April, Washington in June, Doha in July and The Hague in September.

"The issues of Syria and stability in the Middle East are important for Asia particularly in terms of energy security, as Asia relies on imports of oil from the Middle East," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Tokyo meeting "will seek to expand the number of countries that impose sanctions on the Syrian regime and will also discuss efficient implementation of sanctions, for example by discussing ways to close potential loopholes", he said.

Neither Beijing nor Moscow has been invited to the meeting.

"Given the malfunctioning of the UN Security Council with vetoes by China and Russia, voluntary actions by members of the international community are important," the official said.

Delegates are expected to issue a statement calling for an end to violence as soon as possible, he said.

Syria's foreign ministry has lashed out at the planned meeting and demanded Tokyo call it off, but the Japanese official said it would go ahead as planned.

Conflict erupted in Syria in March 2011 when Assad's forces moved to crush pro-reform protests, triggering an armed uprising.

More than 37,000 people have been killed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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