An alliance of Western and Arab nations is set to demand Friday that Syria's government allow access to aid groups to help wounded civilians, in a bid to end a brutal crackdown by the regime of President Bashar al Assad, according to reports.

The demand comes as foreign ministers from more than 50 countries met in Tunisia in the first meeting of the Friends of Syria group, which is intent on ending the bloodshed in the nearly year-old conflict.

On Thursday, it was announced that former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan will be the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy on the Syrian crisis.

In London, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also hinted at a more-robust response from Western leaders, saying Syrian opposition forces will become more capable of carrying out offensive operations against government forces.

They will, from somewhere, somehow, find the means to defend themselves, as well as begin offensive measures, the Washington Post quoted Clinton as saying, though she stopped short of clarifying how the opposition will be strengthened.

Clinton's comments represent a shift in tone for President Barack Obama's administration, which previously eschewed such talk out of fear it could escalate the conflict.

Also Thursday, Syrian government artillery continued to bombard the beleaguered city of Homs, killing five people in the city's Baba Amro district, Reuters reported.

Baba Amro is being hit with 122mm artillery directed at it from surrounding villages. A father and his 14-year-old son were among those killed. They were trying to flee the shelling when shrapnel hit them in the street, Mohammad al-Homsi told the news servic.

Whether the change in rhetoric yields efforts to end the violence will depend largely on discussions at the United Nations, where resolutions have been blocked by Russia and China's vetoes on the Security Council.

In an updated version of the declaration, drafted by the Friends of Syria group, pledged to deliver humanitarian supplies within 48 hours if pro-Assad forces stopped [their] assault on civilian areas and permitted access, according to Reuters.