The international envoy to Syria has outlined the urgent need for a peace process in the country, claiming it remains a possibility. Lakhdar Brahimi made his appeal amid early reports of a massacre in the city of Homs.
UN and Arab League envoy Brahimi said that although the situation was deteriorating sharply, a peace plan might still be put into place, but that it should take place with growing urgency.
"I say that the solution must be this year: 2013, and, God willing, before the second anniversary of this crisis," Brahimi told news conference at the Arab League in Cairo on Sunday, referring to the fact that the uprising began in March 2011.
Brahimi said the way forward involved a ceasefire and the formation of a transition government.
A day earlier, after meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Brahimi warned of the need to work for a political process or risk Syria becoming "a hell."
Claim of Homs massacre
The envoy's appeal came as opposition activists claimed that Saturday had been one of the bloodiest days since the uprising began in March last year.
The opposition Local Coordination Committee alleges on its website that troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad killed some 220 people in a planned series of mass executions on Saturday.
The BBC cited reports of the victims being taken to a petrochemical plant, where the killings were carried out after the Syrian government retook the district of Deir Balbah in the city of Homs. However, with few journalists able to enter Syria, the figure has been impossible to verify.
The committee said that, overall, it had documented the deaths of at least 397 "martyrs," including 20 children across the country on Saturday. Some 62 were reported to have been killed in the capital, Damascus, with another 40 killed in the city of Aleppo.
rc / jlw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)