Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is in China, hours ahead of a UN Security Council vote on fresh Syrian draft resolutions. He appealed for international unity, saying too many lives had been lost in Syria already.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held talks on Wednesday with Chinese President Hu Jintao as he tried to persuade Beijing to back tougher actions to stop the bloodshed in Syria. The meeting came just hours before a key Security Council vote is to take place.
Ban told reporters after his meeting with Hu that he had explained the situation and that "all the leaders in China" agreed with him about the severity of the long-running Syrian conflict.
"I sincerely hope that the members of the Security Council will be able to discuss with a sense of urgency and take collective action with a sense of unity," Ban said in Beijing. "We cannot go on this way. So many people have lost their lives [over] such a long time."
Ban had already urged China to use its power to support a six-point peace plan put forward by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, who is asking Security Council members to order "consequences" for any failure to go through with his six-point plan.
China, one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, has twice sided with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's major ally, Russia, in stopping resolutions criticizing Damascus. Both countries have repeatedly said they oppose foreign intervention in Syria.
"The life of Syria's current political leadership can only be determined by the Syrian people," said the People's Daily newspaper, a Communist Party mouthpiece, on Tuesday. "This is an internal matter and the international community should respect that."
Russia claims acts of "blackmail"
Meanwhile, Russia has regarded the bid to link renewal of the UN observer mission to threats of sanctions against countries as "blackmail," saying that the observers in Syria were being used as "bargaining chips" by Western countries.
Russia proposed a new draft on Tuesday which was rejected by Britain, France, the United States, Germany and Portugal, according to diplomats. The refused Russian draft proposed a renewal of the observer mission for three months, without calling for sanctions or invoking Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.
Observing and enforcing
Article 42 of Chapter 7 would permit the Security Council to "take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security," while Article 43 calls on members to make troops available to the UN to this end.
The joint proposal from Western countries, meanwhile, is liable to be refused by Russia and China in turn as it does invoke this UN Chapter.
"Barring a last minute surprise, we should now go for a vote on Wednesday and we expect a veto by Russia and China," said one Western nation's UN envoy.
On Friday, the current 90-day UN observer mission in Syria comes to an end, and if no resolution is passed by then, it will be shut down this weekend, according to diplomats.
Following talks with Hu, the secretary general was set to meet with Vice President Xi Jinping, as well as foreign policy advisor Dai Bingguo and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
Officially in China for the China-Africa summit, Ban said that international inaction on Syria would be seen as giving a "licence for further massacres."
jlw/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)