International governments must act quickly to stop Syria's "complete destruction," UN leader Ban Ki-Moon warned Monday as the conflict entered a third year.
Condemning the "brutal force" used by President Bashar al-Assad's forces over the past two years, Ban said in an anniversary statement that "today the world is watching the consequences with horror" and those responsible must face justice.
Highlighting a toll of "well over 70,000 dead", a humanitarian crisis with more than three million people displaced, cities and villages destroyed, Ban said "this is the result of a choice to resort to arms over peaceful political dialogue and genuine change," according to deputy UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey.
Ban made a new call to "inject urgency towards reaching a political solution while there is still time to prevent Syria's complete destruction.
"The end goal is clear to all -- there must be an end to violence, a clean break with the past and a transition to a new Syria in which the rights of all communities are protected and the legitimate aspirations of all Syrians for freedom, dignity and justice, are met."
The UN secretary general asked all countries "in particular the Security Council, to find unity and lend its full support" to efforts by UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to reach a political solution.
The major powers on the UN Security Council are bitterly divided over the conflict. Russia has defended Assad and blocked three resolutions which could step up pressure on the Syrian president. The United States, Britain and France have stepped up aid to the Syrian opposition in recent months.