Cairo - The international mediator on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, called on Sunday for world powers to issue a UN Security Council resolution based on a deal they reached in June to set up a transitional government in a bid to end the bloodshed.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking at the same Cairo news conference, dismissed the need for a resolution and said others were stoking violence by backing rebels. His comment highlighted divisions and the impasse over Syria's civil war.
Russia and China, both permanent council members, have vetoed three Western-backed UN draft resolutions condemning President Bashar Assad's government for the violence. The other three permanent members are the United States, Britain and France.
Peaceful protests began in Syria in March 2011 but turned into an armed revolt after Assad turned his military on the demonstrators. About 32 000 people have been killed.
The Geneva Declaration, that was agreed on 30 June when Kofi Annan was still international mediator, called for a transitional administration but did not specify what role, if any, Russia's ally Assad would have.
"It is important that the Geneva Declaration be turned into a resolution from the Security Council to gain the power to enable it to become an applicable political project," Brahimi said after a meeting between him, Lavrov and Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby in the Egyptian capital.
"I encourage member states at the Security Council to continue talks to reach this resolution," said Brahimi, appointed by the United Nations and League. He earlier pressed for a ceasefire during a Muslim holiday last month that failed.
Lavrov said both sides should be forced to sit down to negotiations, saying Moscow backed the Geneva Declaration.
"Unfortunately, some countries which participated in Geneva don't speak with the government but only with the opposition and encourage them to fight till victory and this has very negative implications," he said.
"Maybe we don't need a resolution" from the Security Council, he said, adding that a resolution could lead to more instability by creating conditions to remove the Syrian government. "This is a successful recipe to continue the bloodshed," he said.
Elaraby noted that disagreement between the five veto-wielding powers on the Security Council prevented reaching any binding agreement.
China said on Thursday it had proposed a new initiative to head off an escalation of violence in Syria, including a phased, region-by-region ceasefire and the establishment of a transitional governing body.
"There is no military solution to the crisis," Brahimi said, adding that without a political process to end the violence "the crisis won't stay inside Syria but will flow to neighbouring countries and possibly distant countries."
Meanwhile an AFP report, citing a watchdog and residents, said fierce clashes broke out before dawn on Monday between Syrian troops and rebels in the capital Damascus and in Syria's second city Aleppo.
Fighting had erupted on Sunday night in the capital's southern districts of Al-Hajar Al-Aswad and Tadamun, on the periphery of the Yarmuk Palestinian camp, and renewed at dawn on Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
"There were multiple co-ordinated attacks on military posts in the area before dawn. Clashes ensued and factions of Palestinian fighters joined in on both sides," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
He noted that many residents of Tadamun and Al-Hajar Al-Aswad have moved to the Yarmuk camp for a safer haven amid the fighting.
In Aleppo, fighting broke out around a roundabout at the northwest entrance to the city in the Zahraa district and on the Aleppo airport road southeast of the metropolis.
Also in Zahraa, a fire broke out at a building close to the air force intelligence branch amid shelling attacks on the area, according to the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, lawyers and medics on the ground.
A pharmacist living in the Shahba district just south of Zahraa, said the clashes were the worst he had heard since fighting broke out in the area.
"It's been almost one week that we are living in terror at night. We hear everything - gun battles, tank shelling, explosions. We were so afraid that we moved my sons from their room to the inside of the house," Samir, aged 37, said.
"The clashes before dawn today were the worst all week. They just stopped for one or two hours at midnight and then started up again."
"I know some of my neighbours who fled the area and some others are thinking to leave because the situation is getting worse. The noises are getting louder every day," he said.