UN-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi has warned the UN Security Council that Syria is “breaking up before everyone’s eyes,” diplomats said.
He said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be able to cling to power for now but that the regime’s legitimacy has probably been “irreparably” damaged.
Mr Brahimi appealed to the 15-nation council to overcome its deadlock and take action to help put an end to the Syrian civil war.
However, it was not clear whether his latest report, which diplomats said was his bleakest since his appointment last year, would persuade Russia to agree to support concrete UN steps to try to halt the bloodshed.
Mr Brahimi suggested that attempts to end the 22-month-old conflict, which has claimed more than 60,000 lives according to UN figures, had not progressed in the past two months.
He said it was up to the Security Council to end its impasse.
“Only the international community can help and first [and] foremost the Security Council.”
“I told the council that I’m embarrassed to be repeating the same thing,” Mr Brahimi told reporters after the meeting.
“Syria is being destroyed, bit by bit.”
He said the principles of a political transition in Syria, agreed to at talks among major world and regional powers in Geneva in June last year, could form the basis for a Security Council plan of action.
“In the Geneva communique the meaning of full executive powers [for a transitional government] must be clarified, but it clearly means that Assad should have no role in the transition,” one diplomat quoted Mr Brahimi as saying.
The mediator told the council that Mr Assad may be able to hold onto power for the time being, but that “the Syrian regime’s legitimacy has been seriously, probably irreparably, damaged”.
Russia has said that insisting on Mr Assad’s departure as a condition for peace negotiations between the government and the opposition forces would prevent such talks from ever taking place.
The opposition, backed by the United States and much of Europe, has made plain that Mr Assad can play no role in a future Syrian government.
The Security Council has been deadlocked since 2011 over Russia and China’s refusal to consider sanctions against Assad’s government.
They have vetoed three resolutions condemning Assad’s attempts to crush what began as peaceful protests inspired by other Arab Spring uprisings.
Moscow has joined the Damascus government in criticising the United States, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey for supporting the Syrian rebels.
“There’s no obvious way forward,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters after the meeting.
“I don’t have any promises of any big breakthrough.”