UN-Arab League joint special envoy Kofi Annan's arrival in the Syrian capital yesterday was overshadowed by the "appalling" carnage that killed 108 people, as China lent its support for the diplomat's latest proposal to restore peace.
Annan said that those behind the killing in the central Syrian village of Houla on Friday and Saturday must be held accountable, urging Damascus to take "bold steps" to signal its intention to resolve the crisis peacefully.
Annan is expected to meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his senior officials, as well as representatives of the opposition and civil society during his three-day visit to the country, said his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi.
The Syrian government denied on Sunday that its forces were involved in the massacre, during which 32 children were killed. It also announced that it had formed a military judicial committee to conduct an investigation.
The special envoy's visit aims to boost peace talks and fast track implementation of his six-point plan. However, analysts have warned that the killings might provoke a full-scale civil war in the chaotic country.
"We can't rule out the possibility of civil war since the situation in Syria is becoming more complicated. Terrorist forces have emerged to destroy order in the country," He Wenping, a deputy director of Western Asian and African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
He Wenping added that some countries hope to see Annan's plan fail so that they can push ahead with a military intervention.
The attacks once again highlight the urgency of achieving a ceasefire and ending violence in Syria, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said yesterday.
Liu called upon all parties in Syria to immediately and comprehensively implement the resolutions of the UN Security Council in addition to Annan's proposal.
Liu's remarks came after members of the Security Council condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the killings following a closed-door meeting on Sunday.
Russia and Britain also pushed for implementation of Annan's plan during a meeting of both countries' foreign ministers yesterday, AFP reported.
Robert Mood, head of the UN observers in Syria, said yesterday he sees a positive sign in the prospect of political dialogue, stressing that his mission is pushing very hard for dialogue and stability.
Annan's peace plan was supposed to begin with a ceasefire from April 12 but it has been broken daily, with Sunday marking one of the deadliest days since its nominal start with 87 people killed, AFP reported.
Even though the UN came up with a plan, not all countries support it, according to Li Weijian, director of the Foreign Policy Studies Institute at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.
"Some Western and Arab countries are supporting and even arming opposition fighters to bring down the Syrian government," Li said.
Li said there is a proxy war brewing as some countries put their strategic consideration above the resolution of the Syrian issue.
"What China can do is to support the UN plan and exert more influence through the UN," said Li.
Xuyang Jingjing and agencies contributed to this story