New York - International envoy Kofi Annan urged the world's nations on Thursday to "genuinely unite" behind a new effort to end the escalating Syrian conflict, warning that if things don't change quickly, the country will likely see brutal repression, massacres, sectarian violence and all-out civil war.
Annan told the UN General Assembly that his six-point peace plan is not being implemented, and he put the blame primarily on President Bashar al-Assad. And in a message aimed at the divided UN Security Council, he said there must be "consequences" for those obstructing peace efforts.
"Clearly, the time has come to determine what more can be done to secure implementation of the plan - and/or what other options exist to address the crisis," Annan said.
The US and its European allies have tried unsuccessfully for months to threaten sanctions against Syria as the death toll has risen.
But Russia and China, Syria's main allies, vetoed two Security Council resolutions that threatened possible sanctions, and they indicated their continuing opposition in a joint statement after a summit in Beijing on Wednesday which also opposed any outside military interference or forceful imposition of "regime change" in Syria.
Annan said the unity of the international community behind his peace plan must now be taken to a new level to "chart a clearer course for a peaceful transition".
"If we genuinely unite behind one process, and act and speak with one voice, I believe it is still possible to avert the worst and enable Syria to emerge from this crisis," he said.
Against the backdrop of a new massacre in Syria, UN diplomats said Annan is expected to propose tasking a group of world powers and key regional players, including Iran, to come up with a strategy to end the 15-month conflict when he addresses a closed meeting of the Security Council on Thursday afternoon.
Annan will present the UN with a plan for creating a "contact group" whose final proposal must be acceptable to Russia and China as well as the US and its European allies, they said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that Moscow is proposing an international conference on Syria to try to persuade all Syrian opposition groups to respect Annan's plan, end all violence and sit down for talks.
He said it should include "countries which have a real influence with various opposition groups", including the permanent members of the Security Council, Turkey, Iran, the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation and the European Union.
The violence in Syria has grown increasingly chaotic in recent months, and it is difficult to assign blame for much of the bloodshed.
The government restricts journalists from moving freely, making it nearly impossible to independently verify accounts from either side.
The opposition blames government forces and militias that support them, known as shabihas, while the government blames rebels and "armed terrorist groups".
In the latest violence, activists said government forces killed nearly 80 people, including women and children who were shot, hacked to death and burned in their homes.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said unarmed UN monitors came under fire on Thursday as they tried to reach the scene.
Ban strongly backed Annan's call for unity, saying the international community must recognise that the inability of the government or opposition to engage in political dialogue "makes the prognosis extremely grave".
He said the Annan plan remains the centrepiece of UN efforts, but in view of the deteriorating situation "I would welcome further international discussion on how we can act more effectively".
"No one can predict how the situation in Syria will evolve," the secretary general said. "We must be prepared for any eventuality. We must be ready to respond to many possible scenarios."