World leaders voiced shared fears on Thursday that Syria stands on the brink of an all-out civil war but found little agreement on how to bring it back from the abyss.
Talks in Berlin between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin exposed the sharp differences between Arab and Western governments and Damascus allies Beijing and Moscow on the way forward.
The two leaders found common ground on backing the peace mission of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan but the former UN chief himself admitted to frustration at the slow progress he was making in staunching the bloodshed, as human rights monitors reported another 15 people dead.
Security forces opened fire on demonstrators in several towns as protests were held across the country against the killing of 108 people, most of them women and children, near the central town of Houla last week, activists said.
After his talks, the Russian president acknowledged that Syria could be teetering on the edge of civil war but underlined his opposition to military intervention to stop the bloodshed.
"You cannot do anything by force," Putin told reporters. He hit back at suggestions Moscow was supplying arms for use in Syria, saying his country did not deliver weapons to be deployed in civil conflicts.