The United Nations chief has urged Middle Eastern states and world powers to use their influence to convince Syria's warring parties to discuss a political transition in the war-torn nation during a visit to the Gulf nation of Qatar.

Secretary general Ban Ki-moon said Saturday that a full, immediate cessation of hostilities is needed in Syria and should be accompanied by discussions of what sort of transition will follow. He warned that an escalation in fighting could follow without such negotiations.

Ban also cautioned against using "short-sighted policies and heavy-handed approaches" to confront violent extremists, saying they only exacerbate problems and serve as recruiting tools for terrorists.