LJUBLJANA - Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Syria Thursday to find a political solution to the country's crisis and warned against any new incidents with Turkey after a plane was shot down.
Meanwhile, China on Thursday joined Russia in boycotting a meeting aimed at coordinating efforts to stop the killing in Syria, where three senior army officers were among the latest to be killed. Moscow confirmed that some Western countries had asked it to offer Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a haven in exile, saying it had dismissed the idea as a joke.
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said China would not attend the so-called "Friends of Syria" gathering in Paris on Friday. China "at present does not consider attending the meeting," Liu said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed that Western nations had asked Moscow to offer Assad asylum and that Russia had thought it was a joke. He said the idea was first raised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during June 1 talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Berlin.
Lavrov said he was "quite surprised" when the idea was raised again during the meeting in Geneva on Saturday.
On the eve of the Paris meeting, Amnesty International called for an immediate arms embargo on the Syrian government and for caution over the supply of weapons to rebels. "Amid growing reports of abuses by members of the armed opposition, states should also stop arms transfers to the opposition wherever there is a substantial risk that they are likely to be used for war crimes or other human rights abuses," it said.
On the ground, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 56 people were killed nationwide on Thursday, a day after 99 people died in the violence that has plagued the country for nearly 16 months.
Meanwhile, the chief UN military observer in Syria, Major General Robert Mood, said on Thursday that he is opposed to his 300-strong team being armed. "I've made it quite clear, from my point of view, that to give a small observer force weapons is not a good option," Mood told a press conference in the Syrian capital.
A team of some 300 unarmed observers has been deployed to monitor an April 12 ceasefire that has never taken hold.
The truce was part of a six-point peace plan drawn up by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
The UN monitors suspended their operations in mid-June due to escalating violence.