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'No end to Syrian war'

International peace envoy says there’ll be no end to Syria violence if both sides refuse to talk.

Syrian rebels take position. Picture: AFP

AZAZ, SYRIA/CAIRO - The international peace negotiator for Syria pleaded with outside countries on Sunday to push the warring parties to the table for talks, warning that the country would become a failed state ruled by warlords unless diplomacy is given a chance.

Lakhdar Brahimi, who inherited the seemingly impossible task of bringing an end to the war after his predecessor Kofi Annan resigned in frustration in July, has launched an intensified diplomatic campaign to win backing for a peace plan.

He spent five days this week in Damascus, where he met President Bashar al-Assad.

On Saturday he visited Assad's main international backers in Moscow, and on Sunday he travelled to Cairo, where President Mohamed Morsi has emerged as one of Assad's most vocal Arab opponents.

"The problem is that both sides aren't speaking to one another," he said. "This is where help is needed from outside."

Brahimi's peace plan - inherited from Annan and agreed to in principle in Geneva in June by countries that both oppose and support Assad - has the seemingly fatal flaw of making no mention of whether Assad would leave power.

The Syrian leader's opponents - who have seized much of the north and east of the country in the past six months - say they will not cease fire or join any talks unless Assad goes and have largely dismissed Brahimi's initiative.

But Brahimi says the plan is the only one on the table, and predicts "hell" if countries do not push both sides to talk.

"The situation in Syria is bad, very, very bad, and it is getting worse, and the pace of deterioration is increasing," Brahimi told reporters.

"People are talking about Syria being split into a number of small states ... This is not what will happen. What will happen is Somalisation: warlords." Somalia has been without effective central government since civil war broke out there in 1991.

More than 45,000 people have been killed in Syria's 21-month war, the longest and deadliest of the revolts that began sweeping the Arab world two years ago.

The rebels are mainly from the Sunni Muslim majority, fighting against Assad, a member of the Shi'ite-derived Alawite minority sect, giving the war a dangerous sectarian dimension.

The rebels increasingly believe that their military successes of the past half year are bringing victory within reach. But Assad's forces still hold the densely-populated southwest of the country, the main north-south highway and the Mediterranean coast in the northwest.

The government also holds airbases scattered throughout the country, and has an arsenal including jets, helicopters, missiles and artillery that the fighters cannot match.