The UN security council, including Russia and China, threw its weight behind efforts by Kofi Annan to end the bloody conflict in Syria, providing a rare moment of global unity in the face of the year-long crisis.
In a statement approved by all 15 members, the council threatened Syria with unspecified “further steps” if it failed to comply with Annan’s peace plan, which calls for a ceasefire and demands swift access for aid agencies.
Although the original statement was diluted at Russia’s demand, editing out any specific ultimatums, the fact that all major powers signed up to the proposal represented a major blow to President Bashar al-Assad as he battles a popular uprising.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said in Washington: “To President Assad and his regime we say, along with the rest of the international community: take this path, commit to it, or face increasing pressure and isolation.”
At least 8,000 people have died in the revolt, according to UN figures. Violence has intensified in recent weeks as pro-government forces bombard rebel towns and villages, looking to sweep their lightly armed opponents out of their strongholds.