UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council will discuss the crisis in Syria during an unexpected meeting Friday afternoon, French and other diplomats said.
The French mission to the U.N. said in a Twitter posting late Thursday that the council will meet at 3 p.m. "to discuss steps to take on the situation in Syria." The meeting was later confirmed by other diplomats and listed on an updated U.N. media schedule.
The U.N. says at least 5,400 have been killed in a monthslong Syrian government crackdown on civilian protests.
German Ambassador Peter Wittig and other European diplomats have been meeting this week with diplomats from Arab countries, including Morocco and Qatar, on a resolution that would strongly back an Arab League bid to end the crisis.
Permanent council members Russia and China used their veto powers last fall to block an earlier European resolution on Syria.
The Arab-European draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, expresses support of the Arab League's Jan. 22 decision "to facilitate a political transition leading to a democratic, plural political system."
The draft does not mention sanctions, but calls for the adoption of unspecified "further measures, in consultation with the League of Arab States," if Syria does not comply within 15 days.
The draft also condemns the "continued widespread and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities" and demands that the Syrian government immediately stop all human rights violations.
The Arab League has sent observers to Syria, but the mission has been widely criticized for failing to stop the violence. Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia pulled out of the mission Tuesday, asking the Security Council to intervene because the Syrian government has not halted its crackdown.
The head of Arab League observers in Syria said in a statement that violence in the country has spiked over the past few days. Sudanese Gen. Mohammed Ahmed al-Dabi said the cities of Homs, Hama and Idlib have all witnessed a "very high escalation" in violence since Tuesday.
Associated Press writer Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed to this report.