The Syrian opposition needs arms and the international community should send them weapons so as to reduce the military advantage the government enjoys, said Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud of the King Faisal Centre for Research.

The Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmad Davatoglu would not be drawn on whether Turkey is sending arms to the rebels, but he went so far as to say that Turkey supported the aspiration of the Turkish people, and “there is no limit to Turkey’s assistance to the Syrian people”.

Both speakers were on a panel at the World Economic Forum hosted by Al Arabiya TV channel, where a clear consensus emerged that to sit and do nothing would bring shame on the region and Syria’s friends.

“60,000 people have been killed already,” said Prince Turki. “Do we have to wait for double or triple that number to die before Al Assad leaves?”

Prince Turki, Davatoglu and Nasr Judeh, the Jordanian Foreign Minister, recognised that there is the basis for finding a political solution if the participants want to use it, treating the Geneva Communique and its plans for building a transitional authority as a useful place to start.

But even if that much is agreed, nothing has happened because there is no agreement on the role of Al Assad in any transitional process. His supporters, including the Russians, insist that he should be part of the transition, but the opposition are vehement that no one with so much blood on their hands can be involved in the process of defining a new Syria.

Previously UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke out in favour of finding a negotiated end to the war in Syria, and he called for an end to all arms flows to Syria. He spoke forcefully of the need to find a way to have a ceasefire so that the participants can start talking.

Letting them fight it out is simply too costly for the world community to simply do nothing, he said. He referred to the number of dead, the 4 million people displaced and 700,000 refugees forced to live outside Syria in makeshift camps in the bitter cold of winter.

In order to help with the humanitarian crisis, Ban spoke of the importance of the international donors conference in Kuwait at the end of January, when a coordinated effort will be made to find enough support to look after the refugees.

The views presented by the political leaders were validated by a leading expert on the Arab world. “Syria is a major crisis which affects all its neighbours in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq,” said Vali Nasr of John Hopkins University.

“Earlier in the crisis there was room for diplomatic initiative, but this was wasted due to spats between members of the Security Council and the failure of the west to agree with either Russia or China on how to proceed.

“Therefore military intervention remains unlikely, but the country desperately needs a ceasefire so that it can start to find a political way forward, otherwise it faces a descent into a long, Lebanese-style civil war.”