Talks falter in Moscow as gun battles spread across Damascus

 

Moscow

As forces used helicopters to attack rebels in the capital Damascus yesterday, the diplomatic effort to find a way out of the international impasse over Syria appeared no closer to a solution. The UN envoy Kofi Annan left talks with President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin yesterday afternoon making just brief comments that "hopefully" the UN Security Council can agree on a new Syria resolution.

"We have supported and continue to support your efforts to restore peace," Mr Putin told Mr Annan ahead of the talks. But Russia and China have repeatedly refused to back binding resolutions on Syria or call for President Bashar al-Assad to step down, and there was little sign yesterday this has changed.

As the diplomatic effort rolled on, the fighting continued, with clashes in and around Damascus taking on a new intensity. Explosions could be heard in the capital yesterday, with fighting in at least four areas of the city. Regime forces backed by helicopter gunships took on rebels, and yesterday evening there were reports that a helicopter had been shot down.

The activists hope their operation could be the pivotal act in their 17-month battle to unseat President Assad. The regime, however, painted a different picture. "What is happening is some armed elements infiltrated Damascus and tried to make a move. But the security forces surrounded them and are still dealing with them," the Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi told Reuters.

Meanwhile, in Moscow, Mr Annan once again called for an end to the violence, ahead of a UN Security Council vote on a Western-backed draft resolution today. All the major powers say they support Mr Annan's peace plan, but there are different ideas on the best way to achieve a breakthrough. The Western-backed draft calls for sanctions on Syria under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which can eventually lead to military force. Russia and China have said this is unacceptable, with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying on Monday that Western diplomats were trying to "blackmail" Russia into signing up to the resolution.

In China, the People's Daily ran an editorial yesterday that criticised intervention. "Several wars in this century prove that 'promoting democracy' and 'humanitarianism' are just a pretext for foreign powers to seek private gain," wrote the paper, known as a mouthpiece for the Communist Party, ahead of a meeting between the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, and the Chinese President Hu Jintao today.

In Jordan, the British Foreign Secretary William Hague visited Syrian refugees and refused to rule out military intervention. "Those nations that might block a Security Council resolution have to consider that, if they do so, they will be held responsible for the chaos and bloodshed that are becoming worse in Syria," said Mr Hague.

VIDEO
News
Strange 'quack' noises could be undersea chatter of Minke whales
science
Voices
voices Furore is yet another example of shameful Westminster evasion, says Nigel Farage
News
weird news... and film it, obviously
News
peopleThis time as he’s awarded the Freedom of Stirling and handed an honorary degree
Arts & Entertainment
tv
Sport
sport
News
Matthew Mcnulty and Jessica Brown Findlay in 'Jamaica Inn'
mediaHundreds complain over dialogue levels in period drama
Voices
voicesMoyes' tragedy is one the Deputy PM understands all too well, says Matthew Norman
News
peopleJay Z and Beyoncé to buy £5.5m London townhouse
Voices
voicesMoyes' tragedy is one the Deputy PM understands all too well, says Matthew Norman
Arts & Entertainment
Rocker of ages: Chuck Berry
musicWhy do musicians play into old age?
News
Jilly's jewels: gardener Alan Titchmarsh
peopleCountry Life magazine's list of 'gallant' public figures throws light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Sport
John Terry goes down injured in the 70th minute
sportAtletico Madrid 0 Chelsea 0: Blues can finish the job at Stamford Bridge, but injuries to Terry and Cech are a concern for Mourinho
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor Needed Nottingham/Derbyshire

£3360 - £16800 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Cover Supervisor requ...

English Teacher

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Urgently Required. En...

Supply teachers needed in Cambridgeshire

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad are looking ...

Geography Teacher

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: We are currently recr...

Day In a Page

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

Migrants in Britain a decade on

They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?
Why musicians play into their old age

Why musicians play into their old age

Nick Hasted looks at how they are driven by a burning desire to keep on entertaining fans despite risking ridicule
How can you tell a gentleman?

How can you tell a gentleman?

A list of public figures with gallant attributes by Country Life magazine throws a fascinating light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

The duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire
Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Celebrate St George’s Day with a nice cup of tea. Now you just need to get the water boiled
Sam Wallace: Why Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term

Sam Wallace

Why Ryan Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term
Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Having smashed Sergei Bubka's 21-year-old record, the French phenomenon tells Simon Turnbull he can go higher
Through the screen: British Pathé opens its archives

Through the screen

British Pathé opens its archives
The man behind the papier mâché mask

Frank Sidebottom

The man behind the papier mâché mask
Chris Marker: Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Chris Marker retrospective is a revelation
Boston runs again: Thousands take to the streets for marathon as city honours dead and injured of last year's bombing

Boston runs again

Thousands of runners take to the streets as city honours dead of last year
40 years of fostering and still holding the babies (and with no plans to retire)

40 years of fostering and holding the babies

In their seventies and still working as specialist foster parents