The United Nations Security Council is facing scepticism over its effectiveness, as Syria fails to keep its promises.
The deadline for the government to call in its troops was ignored, but there are doubts about sanctions against Damascus, given that China and Russia vetoed resolutions the Council proposed in October.
That drew American anger.
US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said: “This is not about military intervention. This is not about Libya. That is a cheap ruse by those who would rather sell arms to Syrian regime than stand with the Syrian people.”
Seemingly sanction-averse Russia and China also vetoed the next attempt at a resolution even though it did not call for military intervention or for President al-Assad to give up power. Russia claimed fairness was at stake.
Russian ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said: “The authors of this resolution haven’t taken into account terms we proposed, which say the Syrian opposition must distance itself from extremist groups committing acts of violence.”
Arab League and UN envoy for the Syrian crisis Kofi Annan has said al-Assad’s government wants to be sure that the opposition forces will also stop fighting. Al-Assad has promised to reform Syria, move it toward democratic elections and change its constitution.
Russia has been a faithful ally to Syria under al-Assad, but must consider how the country might evolve. On Tuesday the Russian foreign minister made clear that Moscow expected compliance from Damascus.
Sergei Lavrov said: “I will tell you frankly, we voiced our assessment with our Syrian colleagues. We think they could have been more active, their actions more decisive, executing provisions of Kofi Annan’s plan.”
The US ambassador to the UN said the next logical step to force compliance was to apply further pressure, collectively.
Susan Rice said: “If not, then it looks quite obvious that what is increasingly becoming a violent crisis will potentially devolve quite regrettably into full-scale civil war, with all of the consequences that entails for the people of Syria.”
China, the other powerful al-Assad ally, has conveyed its concern over the spreading effects of hostilities in Syria. Beijing has urged Damascus and opposition forces to apply the Annan plan.