Russia and China yesterday blocked a crucial UN Security Council resolution on Syria while events on the ground raced ahead of the grinding diplomacy as the rebels appeared to be nearing a turning point in the conflict, announcing key strategic advances.
Iraqi officials confirmed today that Syrian rebels were now in control of the Syrian side of the Iraq-Syria border.
Ambassador Vitaly Churkin insisted yesterday that the decision to veto the resolution was in the interests of the Syrian people and told ITV News' International Editor Bill Neely that diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed had not broken down.
British, American and other western diplomats have for weeks been urging Russia and China to back a Security Council resolution calling for the Syrian Army to stop using heavy weapons.
The Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement that he was "appalled" by yesterday's veto.
– William Hague, Foreign Secretary
In the view of the UK the decision by Russia and China to veto this resolution is inexcusable and indefensible. When it came to the time to turn agreements which they have supported into action to end the violence, they stood aside. They have turned their back on the people of Syria in their darkest hour.
The US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, who was visibly furious after the vote, called the decision "pitiful and deeply regrettable".
Russia and China argue that the resolution, under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, would pave the way for sanctions and military intervention in Syria. They point to the examples of western intervention in Iraq and Libya.
Meanwhile, the violence in Syria is escalating as armed opposition groups fight for control of the capital Damascus, street by street.
Activists in Damascus said rebels were now in control of the capital's northern Barzeh district, where troops and armoured vehicles had pulled out. The army had also pulled out of the towns of Tel and Dumair north of Damascus after taking heavy losses, they said.
ITV News International Correspondent John Ray reports from Beirut in neighbouring Lebanon: