A similar resolution adopted by the Security Council last March regarding Libya cleared the way for NATO to militarily intervene in the Arab country. Russia repeatedly said it will veto a similar resolution with respect to its ally Syria which it said was a Western ruse to justify a Libya-style intervention.
A statement released by the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said Syria is not honoring its commitments in accordance with the UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan. According to the plan, Syria was supposed to immediately cease troop movements, end the use of heavy weapons in population centers and begin pullback of military concentrations in and around population centers by Tuesday morning.
On the ground, activists said there were scant signs that the regime was withdrawing. Syrian tanks and soldiers remained in most major flashpoint towns and cities across the country, with military operations reported in Damascus suburbs, the central regions of Homs and Hama, Idlib and Aleppo in the north and Daraa in the south.
Annan's plan to end Syria's crisis calls for an immediate withdrawal of troops and heavy military equipment from populated areas, followed by an overall cease-fire -- first by government forces and then by opposition fighters -- to pave the way for talks by all Syrian parties on a political solution. It includes an immediate daily two-hour halt to fighting so humanitarian aid can reach suffering civilians and unhindered access for humanitarian groups and the media.
Syrian troops defied the cease-fire plan on Tuesday, launching fresh attacks on rebellious areas, but Annan said there was still time to salvage a truce that he described as the only chance for peace.
More than a year into the Syrian uprising, the international community has nearly run out of options for halting the slide toward civil war. On Tuesday, Annan insisted his peace initiative remains “very much alive” in part because there is no viable alternative. The UN has ruled out any military intervention of the type that helped bring down Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, and several rounds of sanctions and other attempts to isolate President Bashar al-Assad have done little to stop the bloodshed.
“If you want to take [the plan] off the table, what will you replace it with?” Annan told reporters in Hatay, Turkey, where he toured a camp sheltering Syrian refugees.
Facing a Tuesday deadline to pull back its tanks and troops, the Syrian government had said it was withdrawing from certain areas, including the rebellious central province of Homs. But activists, the US and Turkey said there was no sign of a withdrawal. The Turkish statement also added that the military crackdown on civilians had spilled over the Turkish border as Syrian troops shot at a Syrian refugee camp in southern Turkey.
On Monday, the violence in Syria spilled across two borders when regime forces opened fire, killing a TV journalist in Lebanon and at least two people in a refugee camp in Turkey. The bloodshed was a sign of how easily Syria's neighbors could be drawn into a wider conflict.
In a letter to the UN Security Council, Annan said Syria has not pulled troops and heavy military equipment out of cities and towns and that the regime's last-minute conditions put the entire cease-fire at risk. The council strongly backed Annan, with all 15 members -- including Syria allies China and Russia -- approving a press statement expressing “deep concern” at the failure by Damascus to withdraw its troops and heavy equipment.
Turkey reiterated its full support for Annan's peace plan and stressed that the Syrian opposition's support for Annan's plan was also conveyed at the İstanbul gathering of the “Friends of Syria” earlier this month.
After 13 months of bloodshed, a revolt that began as a mostly peaceful movement against Assad's stagnant and entrenched regime has morphed into an insurgency. The UN estimates more than 9,000 people have been killed since the uprising began, and the toll continues to climb every day. Regime forces assault opponents with tanks, machine guns and snipers, and the Free Syrian Army launches frequent attacks against government targets, killing soldiers and security forces.
Syria's main opposition group has said about 1,000 people have been killed in regime attacks in the last eight days alone, a figure that could not be independently confirmed. The conflict is among the most explosive of the Arab Spring, in part because of Syria's web of allegiances to powerful forces including Lebanon's Hezbollah and Shiite powerhouse Iran.
Western leaders have pinned their hopes on Annan's diplomatic pressure, with the US and others unwilling to get deeply involved in another Arab nation in turmoil -- particularly one as unpredictable as Syria. Even though Washington has a clear interest in seeing Assad go, in part because it would be a blow to Iran, President Barack Obama's administration is reluctant to use force.
Russia and China had blocked strong action by the UN Security Council, giving Assad a significant layer of protection as his crackdown continues.
Turkey said it expects the UN Security Council to adopt a decision that would include taking necessary measures to protect the Syrian people as Assad failed to live up to his commitments to the Annan cease-fire plan.
US Republican Senator John McCain, who has called on the Obama administration to launch US airstrikes to end Assad's crackdown, said Russia and China should be ashamed of their stance. “Shame on you for blocking the efforts that could be made by the UN to stop the slaughter,” he said in Turkey.
With the conflict at a stalemate, Annan's plan was hailed as a possible diplomatic breakthrough, even though there was skepticism from the start that the deadline would hold. Annan, working on behalf of the UN and the Arab League, secured the support of Russia and China for the cease-fire plan and then went to Iran on Tuesday to press officials there for support as well.