GENEVA — World powers share a belief that Syria could descend into civil war and plan to map out possible ways to avoid such a disaster for the region, a deputy to international envoy Kofi Annan said Wednesday.

Jean-Marie Guehenno told reporters after privately briefing the U.N. Security Council, the world body’s most powerful unit, that diplomats are deeply troubled by Syria’s cycle of violence.

“I believe that in the council there’s an understanding that any sliding toward full-scale civil war in Syria would be catastrophic, and the Security Council now needs to have that kind of strategic discussion on how that needs to be avoided,” Guehenno said in Geneva after speaking to the New York-based Security Council by videoconference.

However, there was no indication that Russia, one of the veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, was changing its position on Syria.

Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, was quoted as saying by the ITAR-Tass news agency Wednesday that “there can be no talk” about a shift in Russia’s stance on Syria under foreign pressure.

Guehenno, the Annan deputy and a former U.N. peacekeeping chief, also warned of the possibility of outside groups and terrorists taking advantage of the violence.

“In any situation where there is a risk of civil war you have opportunistic actors, if one can say that, that can try to exploit that,” he said.