UN-AL Envoy Annan
UN-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan leaves the stage of the UN General Assembly after delivering his briefing on the crisis in Syria on Friday. Reuters

The Chinese foreign ministry issued a statement strongly condemning the ongoing violence in Syria by both sides of the worsening conflict. The spokesman for the ministry, Liu Weimin, also called for the perpetrators of such acts as the recent massacre in the Syrian town of Hama to be punished.

While Beijing's stance appears to be a breakthrough -- that is, the foreign ministry condemned both the Syrian rebels as well as the forces of President Bashar al-Assad (China's long-time diplomatic friend), the Chinese and Russians have also reaffirmed their stern opposition to any foreign military intervention in Syria, while upholding the peace plan formulated by United Nations special envoy Kofi Annan.

Indeed, Liu added that his government firmly opposes military intervention in Syria because such a method cannot fundamentally solve the crisis... All parties in Syria will concretely implement their commitment of cease-fire and cessation of violence.

The Chinese government also noted on Friday that the current situation in Syria is complex and grave. It has pushed for both loyalist and anti-Assad forces to honor the Annan ceasefire plan, a position consistent with previous statements it has made over past months during regular press conferences in Beijing.

But, in an interesting addendum, Liu added: Damascus [meaning, the Assad regime] should also shoulder its responsibility and the same is true for the opposition groups.

Liu's statement may suggest that Beijing is gradually losing patience with Assad as the death toll in Syria keeps mounting after 15 months of a brutal crackdown - however, the Chinese and Russian stance on Syria remain fundamentally unaltered.

Beijing and Moscow have already vetoed two UN resolutions condemning the Syrian president and also blocked measures to place sanctions on the Assad regime, adding to the hopelessness of the stalemate.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao reiterated their opposition to armed intervention in Syria by an outside force in Beijing on Wednesday.

But this intransigence has come at a high price.

The Chinese and Russians have not only alienated much of the West, but they have also rankled Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar which have called for military assistance to Syrian rebels and have demanded Assad step down.

Russia and China are becoming increasingly isolated on the global stage -- both governments are finding their stances on Syria increasingly harder to support and justify, especially with revelations of horrific mass murders of civilians, including many women and children, perpetrated by government-backed forces.

Meanwhile, Syria is showing all the signs of sliding into a full-blown civil war.

The General Secretary of the United Nations, Ban Ki moon, said on Friday that the onset of a full-scale civil war is imminent and real, with catastrophic consequences for Syria and the region.

Annan himself categorically placed blame on the relentless violence firmly on Assad's government on Thursday. The envoy added that the UN needed to ensure there were consequences for continued violence.

Annan also put forward a proposal for a contact group of influential states to apply pressure on the Assad regime to end the bloodshed.

But the members of the UN Security Council with the most influence in Damascus - namely, Russia and China -- are unlikely to support any further moves by outside forces to dictate peace terms in Syria.

Analysts believe that the two governments are wary of any moves that could expand Western influence and power in the region. Beijing and Moscow are also vehemently opposed to external intervention on principle alone, and view such measures as tantamount to an expansion rather than a de-escalation of the conflict.

Russia's ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, seemed to blame the Syrian rebels exclusively when he said on Thursday that the inability of the armed opposition to comply with the Annan plan was a very dangerous development.

Russia is also likely concerned about jeopardizing its historical relationship as Syria's chief arms dealer, though official sales of arms to Damascus at this point would be largely condemned worldwide.

China, meanwhile, is sticking to its principles against outside intervention due to worries about setting a precedent where foreign governments take a larger role in resolving domestic human rights issues (since China's own human rights record has also been condemned by the West).

In the meantime, even UN personnel monitoring the situation in Syria are not safe from the escalating violence.

On Thursday, United Nations observers travelling to the town of Qubeir were fired upon. The attack on the UN convoy is thought by experts as an attempt to delay or prevent their arrival into the town, the location of a suspected recent massacre by government-backed militias against civilians. Western media reports that small numbers of UN personnel were able to enter the town by Friday.

Anonymous sources in the UN have also told Western media that this isn't the first time its unarmed observers, of which 297 are now in the country (300 in total are expected), have been attacked since arriving in Syria. In several instances, patrols have been targeted with not only small arms, but even by armor-piercing ammunition from heavy weapons.

In mid-May, the European Union resolved to send armed vehicles for its observers serving with the UN team after their convoy had come under fire in southern Syria.

Syrian state-controlled media has worked to divert culpability away from the regime and onto outside groups or anti-government fighters. The government reported that terrorists had carried out the killings in Qubeir, and claims only nine people were murdered. Varying reports from activist groups in Syria put the figure either at 78 or more than 100 dead.

Syria's official SANA news agency also alleged on Friday that there was evidence of weapons from Western nations entering the country illegally. Syrian media added that large amounts of modern and advanced weapons had been intercepted entering into the country from neighboring Lebanon, including a vehicle full of powerful American and Israeli small-arms.