International mediator Kofi Annan warned the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that the Syria crisis will soon spiral out of control and called for “substantial pressure” on Damascus and consequences for undermining his peace plan, diplomats said.
Annan briefed the closed-door session of the Security Council along with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said hopes for consolidating Annan’s six-point peace plan for Syria were fading amid unrelenting violence between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and opposition fighters, the diplomats said on condition of anonymity, according to Reuters.
Annan renewed calls for the major powers to warn President Bashar al-Assad of “clear consequences” if he does not comply with Annan’s six-point peace plan, one diplomat inside a closed-door council briefing told AFP.
“The longer we wait, the darker the future looks for Syria,” the international envoy also told the 15-member council, another diplomat quoted Annan as saying.
The council must apply “united pressure” on Assad, the international envoy added. Annan again highlighted that his peace initiative could not be “open-ended.”
The Security Council has passed two resolutions which approved the U.N. monitoring mission in Syria and condemned the violence there. But it is divided over how to increase pressure.
Russia, Syria’s last major ally, and China have vetoed two council resolutions which only hinted at future sanctions. The United States and European nations want economic sanctions on Assad.
U.N. observers targeted in Syria
Meanwhile, the U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council meeting that heavy weapons, armor-piercing bullets and surveillance drones have been used against U.N. observers in Syria to hamper their efforts to monitor the worsening conflict.
Diplomats quoted Ban as saying the tactics had been used to try to force the unarmed monitors to withdraw from areas where government forces have been accused of staging attacks.
Ban said the heavy shelling had been used to deter a U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) convoy, drones had monitored the movements of observers and the armor-piercing bullets had been fired at UNSMIS vehicles.
According to U.N. officials, U.N. vehicles are shot at almost every day in Syria.
Ban told the 15-nation council that U.N. observers had seen Syrian military convoys approaching villages and tried to stop tank assaults against populated areas, but had been “ignored.”
Ban and Annan briefed the Security Council only hours after a new massacre in Syria in which dozens of people were reported killed. Ban said shots were fired at the U.N. convoy which tried to get into the village of al-Kubeir.
Ban said that according to preliminary evidence, the Syrian army had surrounded the village and militia had entered al-Kubeir and killed civilians with “barbarity”, according to diplomats at the meeting.
Death toll mounts across Syria
On the ground, at least 41 people, including 23 civilians, were killed across Syria on Thursday, a watchdog said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 15 regular army troops and three rebels were among the 41 people killed across the country.
Three civilians, including a girl child, and a rebel, were killed in shelling by regime troops in the Talbisah area in the central province of Homs, the Britain-based Observatory said.
The rebel was killed when hit by fire from a helicopter, the watchdog said, adding that nine soldiers also died in Talbisah.
Two civilians were also killed in the city of Homs, including one in the Jobar neighborhood in army shelling, while a third civilian who died at a checkpoint.
Four civilians were also killed in the central province of Hama.
In al-Hafa region, in the northwestern province of Latakia, eight civilians were killed as clashes raged between rebels and government troops, the observatory said.
Two rebels and four soldiers died in the clashes, while 35 troops were wounded, it said, adding that the army sent reinforcements to the area.
Two civilians were shot dead in Damascus -- one in the city and another in the northern suburb of Duma, the watchdog said.
A civilian was killed in regime shelling of Deir Jamal village in the northern province of Aleppo, while another was killed at a checkpoint in Aazaz area in the province.
A sniper also shot dead a civilian in Ariha in the northwestern province of Idlib, the Observatory said.
A judge in a military court and his assistant were assassinated outside the court in the village of Tafas in the southern province of Deraa, cradle of uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, the Observatory said.
It also reported clashes there.
The latest violence comes a day after at least 100 people, mostly from the same family, were killed in a new massacre.
Both the Observatory and the opposition Syrian National Council have blamed the massacre on militiamen loyal to Assad’s regime, which denied involvement.
The government said a “terrorist group” was behind an assault in al-Kubeir that it said left nine people dead.