International pressure on the Syrian regime is growing ahead of Friday's ultimatum from rebels who threaten to end their part in the cease-fire.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has described the escalation in Syria as a "disaster" and prospects as being "really bad." She meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Berlin on Friday. The meeting comes as international pressure on the Syrian regime is being taken across international organizations.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called on President Bashar al-Assad to implement UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan. He called for action to prevent Syria from sliding into "catastrophic" civil war.
In Turkey for a UN-backed conference on Somalia, Ban said that the 14-month-old conflict in Syria was becoming more sectarian and was escalating to a point where it was in danger of spilling over into neighboring countries.
Ban called on "the government of Syria to act on its commitment to the Annan peace plan" and "act on its responsibilities to its people."
Additional diplomatic measures
Also in Turkey, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Syria is moving towards "all-out civil war or a state of collapse." He said the European Union had begun drafting new sanctions against Syria.
The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva drafted a resolution to be voted on Friday on ordering an investigation into the Houla massacre. The draft condemns what it describes as “an outrageous use of force against the civilian population which constitutes a violation of applicable international law."
Submitted by the United States, Turkey and Qatar, the paper urges the Syrian authorities "to put an immediate end to all violence and all human rights violations."
An ultimatum by rebels in the Free Syrian Army (FSA) expires at midday local time, (0900 GMT) Friday. They have given the regime an ultimatum, warning that if Damascus does not comply with the UN-backed cease-fire and six-point peace plan, they will no longer be bound to the cease-fire agreement terms themselves.
The plan calls for an immediate cease-fire, withdrawal of Syrian troops and heavy weapons from cities, the release of detainees and free access for journalists and aid groups in the country. Although the cease-fire went into effect on April 12, it has been violated on a nearly daily basis since then.
Colonel Kassim Saadeddine, the FSA leader, said that if Assad did not meet the Friday deadline, his forces would be "free from any commitment, and we will defend and protect the civilians, their villages and their cities."
jm/ncy (Reuters, dpa, AFP)