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The Syria conflict is the biggest current threat to world peace, a fact starkly underlined by the reported chemical weapons attack near Damascus this week, UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi warned Friday.
"Syria is without any doubt the biggest threat to peace and security in the world today," Brahimi said in an interview in Geneva broadcast by UNTV in which he urged the warring parties to come to the negotiating table.
"This allegation, that chemical weapons have been used a few kilometres from the heart of Damascus as a matter of fact emphasises the importance of this crisis and the danger it represents, not only for the Syrian people, not only for the region, but for the world," he said.
The Syrian opposition said the Damascus regime used chemical weapons near the capital in an attack that killed hundreds of people.
Brahimi said the threat was also shaped by factors such as the massive flood of refugees across Syria's borders, and the involvement of neighbouring countries.
Brahimi has been struggling to bring together President Bashar al-Assad's allies and the opposition for a "Geneva II" peace conference.
The negotiations are meant to be based on the results of talks in Geneva in June 2012, when world powers agreed on the need to establish a transition government in the conflict-torn country.
But the warring sides failed to agree on whether Assad could play a role in forming the new government, or whether his closest representatives could serve on the new interim team.
The dispute, coupled with an inability to halt the fighting on the ground, meant the 2012 peace terms were never implemented.
"The problem is that the parties that are involved in this civil war, each one of them thinks that they can win militarily. We believe, the secretary general of the United Nations and a lot of other people believe, that there is no military solution. No side is going to win," Brahimi said.
"There is only a political solution and the earlier we work on it, the better."
Russian and US officials are to meet next week in The Hague to discuss plans for a conference, though Brahimi said it "remains to be seen" whether it could be held in September.
"We are near in the sense that I think that we could say that the international community is now close enough to an agreement that a political solution is the only way. The parties are not there yet," he explained.