The UN Security Council has held a high-level meeting on the Syria crisis, now into its 18th month with no end in sight.
The uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has escalated into an armed conflict that has killed some 27,000 people, according to Syrian activists.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned the Security Council, which met late on September 26 on the sidelines of the General Assembly meeting, that if a solution was not found, the crisis could spill over into a wider conflict that could drag in regional powers.
"In Syria, the conflict has become a threat to international peace and security. A human tragedy is unfolding in full view but also in the darkness of prisons, under the rubble of entire neighborhoods and in the traumatized minds of children," Ban said.
"I appeal to all with influence to persuade the parties that there is no military solution to this crisis."
Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby -- whose regional body was praised for its efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis -- faulted the Assad regime for seeking a "security solution" to the conflict.
"The Syrian crisis is deteriorating and escalating day after day. The fact that the Syrian government persists in the security solution, including the use of heavy weapons and military aircraft against its own people, and the fact that it refuses to respond to all initiatives including the initiatives of the Arab League. This has now confronted us with serious and tragic consequences," Elaraby explained.
U.S., Russia Split Over Assad
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted the United States "has committed more than $100 million to help the Syrian people and we continue to insist that the violence must end and a political transition without Assad must move forward."
Russia and China have vetoed three United Nations Security Council resolutions backed by Western and Arab states that would have increased pressure on Assad to stop the bloodshed.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said insisting Assad first step down was an "unrealistic" approach to resolving the Syrian crisis.
"Today the strife that overflows in the Arab world is concentrated in the situation in Syria. We condemn any violent acts, any violation of human rights and international humanitarian law, whoever the perpetrator, the government of Syria, or the armed opposition," Lavrov said.
"However, a significant share of responsibility for the continuing bloodshed rests upon the states that instigate the opponents of Bashar al-Assad to reject the cease-fire and dialogue and at the same time to demand unconditional capitulation of the regime. Such an approach is unrealistic and, in fact, it encourages terrorist methods that the armed opposition is using more and more often."
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said inaction by the Security Council was "shocking."
UN: Up To 700,000 Syrians Could Flee
The UN refugee agency says the number of refugees fleeing Syria could reach 700,000 by the end of the year.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on September 27 in a statement that about 294,000 refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria had already crossed into four neighboring countries -- Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Turkey -- or await registration there.
The UNHCR statement warned that the United Nations was "running out of time" to effectively handle the crisis.
Rights groups say more than 30,000 people have been killed since the outbreak of the revolt against Assad's regime in March 2011.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that September 26 was the bloodiest day of the conflict so far, with more than 300 people killed across the country.
With reporting by AFP, AP and Reuters