Syria: France calls for UN to enforce Annan plan
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says he will call on the UN Security Council to make mediator Kofi Annan's Syria peace plan mandatory.
France would propose that Mr Annan's six-point plan be enforced under the UN's Chapter Seven provision, he said.
Mr Fabius said the conflict in Syria had descended into a "civil war".
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned Russia its interests in the region will be harmed if it does not act more constructively.
She told reporters in Washington that Moscow said it wanted peace and stability restored in Syria and claimed to have vital interests in the Middle East and relationships that it wanted to keep. "They put all that at risk if they do not move more constructively right now," she said.
Mrs Clinton's remarks came a day after she accused Moscow of sending attack helicopters to Damascus, a claim vehemently rejected on Wednesday by Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
This is the first substantive move on Syria by the new French government.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has joined the developing consensus in branding the Syrian crisis a "civil war".
He has taken this logic one step further, effectively branding it as also a threat to peace by declaring France's intention to seek a UN Security Council resolution under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter.
Such a resolution would allow countries to take military or non-military action to restore international peace and security.
Of course, in reality there is minimal chance of Russia or China allowing such a resolution to pass. But the French move is a clear signal of the increasing gravity and concern with which the crisis in Syria is being seen.
On a visit to Tehran, Mr Lavrov insisted that Russia was "not supplying Syria or any other country with items which can be used against peaceful protesters, unlike the United States, which regularly supplies weapons to the region".
Mrs Clinton urged Russia to join negotiations, hours after the French foreign minister gave his news conference in Paris at which he said he hoped Moscow would agree to his proposal to enforce Kofi Annan's six-point plan.
But Russia and fellow UN Security Council member, China, would be unlikely to accept a Chapter Seven resolution, which allows for action to be backed up by force.
It was necessary "to resort to Chapter Seven to make the provisions of the Annan plan mandatory", Mr Fabius said.
"We are working towards this and hope that this move will be swiftly implemented."'Heavy sanctions'
Back in April, Mr Fabius's predecessor as France's foreign minister, Alain Juppe, warned that if the Annan plan failed then the UN would "have to move to a new stage" involving enforcement.
Under the Annan plan, all armed violence has to end and all parties must ensure provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting.
The authorities are also required to ensure freedom of movement for journalists and the right for people to demonstrate peacefully.
What is Chapter Seven?
- Permits UN Security Council to take action - military and non-military - if it determines "any threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression" exists
- Armed action can be taken if the council finds non-military steps would be, or have proved to be, inadequate
- Measures can include air, sea and land operations
- Action can be vetoed by any of the permanent Security Council members - US, Russia, France, Britain and China
- All UN members required to assist any armed action approved
- Armed action would be directed by UN Military Staff Committee, composed of permanent Security Council members' armed forces chiefs
Mr Fabius said the Annan plan would now have to be enforced "under pain of very heavy sanctions".
He said he would get in touch immediately with his European and American colleagues to propose a raft of new, "tougher" measures that would hit not only Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad but also "army officials and all those who support Assad".
Russia and China both have a veto at the UN Security Council and have already blocked two resolutions calling for tougher action against Damascus.
Earlier on Wednesday, Syrian forces seized control of the western mountain town of Haffa after fierce fighting with rebels. State media said Haffa had been "purged of terrorists" and government forces had "restored security and calm to the area".
The rebel Free Syrian Army said it had pulled its fighters out of the area to spare residents from further massive bombardments.
Syrian activists said at least 40 people were killed by security forces across the country on Wednesday. At least 12 people, most of them women and children, died in attacks by helicopters and artillery on the rebel-held town of Rastan, north of Homs, activists reported.
The government said it had buried 27 military personnel killed in the conflict.
As diplomatic moves over Syria intensify, the Russian foreign minister is due to meet British Foreign Secretary William Hague in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Thursday.
Asked by reporters whether he felt Syria had descended into civil war, Mr Hague said: "I continue to put it the same way as the last few days, that Syria is on the edge of collapse or of a deadly sectarian civil war."
The Syrian government and opposition have both denied that Syria has degenerated into civil war. Damascus says it is clearing out foreign-backed terrorists, while the opposition argues it is trying to defend a continuing mass uprising, the BBC's Jim Muir reports from neighbouring Lebanon.