The international peace envoy for Syria said the situation in the country was deteriorating sharply but a solution was still possible under the terms of a peace plan agreed in Geneva in June.
He said the state would collapse without a solution, reiterating warnings that the country could turn into "hell" and a new Somalia.
"I say that the solution must be this year: 2013, and, God willing, before the second anniversary of this crisis," Lakhdar Brahimi said at a news conference at the Arab League in Cairo, referring to the start of the uprising in March 2011.
"A solution is still possible but is getting more complicated every day," he added. "We have a proposal and I believe this proposal is adopted by the international community."
Brahimi is the joint UN-Arab League envoy charged with trying to mediate an end to a conflict that has killed at least 44,000 people. "The situation in Syria is bad, very, very bad, and it is getting worse and the pace of deterioration is increasing," he said.
"People are talking about Syria being split into a number of small states ... this is not what will happen, what will happen is Somalization: war lords," he said.
Somalia has been without effective central government since civil war broke out there in 1991.
Brahimi, referring to the Geneva plan, said: "There are sound foundations to build a peace process through which the Syrians themselves can end the war and fighting and to build the future."
The plan included a ceasefire, the formation of a government and steps towards elections, either for a new president, or a new parliament. But it left the fate of President Bashar Assad unclear although the Syrian opposition and foreign governments who back them insist he must go.
Meanwhile on Sunday, activists say Syrian rebels have captured an oil pumping station in the north of the country after days of fighting.
The Local Coordination Committees and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say the rebels captured the station in the province of Raqqa on Sunday.
Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Observatory, said the station receives crude oil from the nearby province of Hassakha then pumps it to the central region of Homs, home to one of Syria's two oil refineries.
Rebels have captured in the past months several oil fields in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour that borders Iraq.
The Observatory said the rebels also captured a military post that used to protect the station.
Syria's conflict which began in March last year has killed more than 40,000 people.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now