Syria's warring sides yesterday admitted there was "no progress" in breaking through the deadlock in their faltering peace process, as doubts increased that international pressure could save the talks from collapse.
On what was expected to be the last day of the current round of the UN-brokered peace talks, there was no sign that rival negotiators would even sit down in the same room, something they have done just twice since the session began on Monday.
Just as they did during the debut round of talks in January -- the biggest international push so far to end the war in Syria -- the foes have this week sparred over what should top the agenda, which blocked any possible negotiation.
The opposition insists the focus must be on shifting Syria from one-party rule under President Bashar al-Assad. But government negotiators refused to discuss a 24-point opposition proposal set out this week for a so-called Transition Governing Body to halt violence and pave the way for elections.
Observers said the talks were hanging in the balance.
"We are in a dead end," said a Western diplomat, warning the prospects looked "grim" and that it would be tough for Brahimi to organise a third round.
On the ground, regime air attacks and fighting have sent the death toll in Syria soaring, with 236 people killed on average each day since the talks began in January, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday.
And yesterday, a car bombing outside a mosque in southern Syria killed 33 people yesterday and rebels detonated mines under a hotel in the north, killing five soldiers, monitors said.