BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Syrian government forces fought with rebels Monday to reclaim eastern suburbs of the capital city Damascus.
According to a New York Times article, rebel forces brought the fighting closer than ever to the capital in the 10-month-old conflict, engaging with tanks, troops and armed vehicles.
Russia, a notable ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said Monday that it plans to host informal meditation talks between leaders of both sides through its Foreign Ministry in Moscow. The ministry said that it has not received cooperation for such talks from the rebels.
"In an attempt to contribute with the Syrians to a peaceful settlement without foreign intervention and with respect to the sovereignty of Syria, we have appealed to the Syrian government and to all opposition groups to send their representatives to Moscow at a mutually acceptable time for informal contacts without prior conditions," the Foreign Ministry said.
But the Syrian National Council, a large Syrian opposition group, was reported by Agence France-Presse to not agree to the offer unless Assad resigned from office, an option that both Russia and Assad said they view as unacceptable.
As the number of civilian deaths tallied nearly 40 Monday, intensity increased at the United Nations for Russia to agree to the draft resolution, as said in a Star Tribune article. The resolution calls for Assad to hand over power to his vice president and allow creation of a unity government and eventually elections.
Assad has 15 days to respond before a United Nations Security Council may be forced to take further actions. Secretary of state Hillary Clinton, a participant of the council, said she condemned the escalation of the Syrian regime's violent and brutal attacks on its own people.
"The status quo is not acceptable," she said. "The longer the Assad regime stands in the way of a peaceful transition, the greater the concern that instability will escalate and spill over throughout the region."