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The head of the UN Stabilisation Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) says the mission has been suspended because of escalating violence, agencies report.
On Friday, the Norwegian Gen Robert Mood said there appeared to be a "lack of willingness" from Syria's government and opposition to seek peace.
He also said violence had intensified in the preceding 10 days, putting his unarmed observers at significant risk.
Ever since the fall of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, but especially after the 2004 "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine, the Russian leadership has been obsessed with the idea of America and the EU engineering the overthrow of governments that, for whatever reason, they find unsuitable.
Moscow claims to have a special influence on the regime in Damascus, but it seems that instead of advising Bashar Assad to change his ways, Russian emissaries were telling him until recently - help us to help you. Use some creative window dressing and we'll be able to defend you better.
“U.N. observers will not be conducting patrols and will stay in their locations until further notice,” General Mood said in a statement Saturday. He said the observers would not leave the country, and the suspension would be reviewed on a daily basis. “Operations will resume when we see the situation fit for us to carry out our mandated activities,” he said.
Last week shots were fired at a car carrying U.N. observers after they were turned away from the town of Haffeh by angry Assad supporters who threw stones and metal rods at their convoy, a spokeswoman for the monitors said. On May 15, a roadside bomb damaged observers' cars shortly after they met with Syrian rebels in the northern town of Khan Sheikoun. A week earlier, a roadside bomb struck a Syrian military truck in the south of the country just seconds after Mood drove by in a convoy.
Despite fears that violence could significantly worsen without the their presence on the ground, prominent activist Rami Abdul-Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was better for the U.N. teams to leave. "We haven't seen anything beneficial from them. If they are independent … so what?" he said. "A lot of crimes happened in Syria, and they couldn't do anything."
Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught, reporting from the Turkish capital Istanbul, where Syrian opposition groups were meeting on Saturday, said the reaction to the move by the UN mission was "a lack of surprise on the whole". "One delegate said to me [the monitors] were there to observe and, from where they sat, the regime had done everything to obstruct the mission to go in and actually view things," McNaught said. "So in a sense they weren't being able to do the full job they were sent in to do so what was the point of them being there anymore?" Another opposition member told our correspondent he felt the mission's "days were numbered" after an attack last week on a UN convoy trying to reach the town of Haffeh.
UN Praises Russia’s Humanitarian Role in Syria
Besides sending humanitarian aid to Syria, Russia is also assisting UN humanitarian teams working in the conflict-stricken country, UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said in an interview with RIA Novosti.
Amos met on Friday in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov discussing the humanitarian situation in Syria among other issues.
“Russia supports individual appeals, and most recently, for example, have not only sent aid to Syria but has been at the forefront of supporting our [UN] work and trying to unlock some of the political blockages in relation to humanitarian access [in Syria],” she said.
MOSCOW, June 16 (RIA Novosti)
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said over 1,000 families in Homs need to be evacuated. Meanwhile, activists have criticised the UN observer mission in Syria for deciding to suspend its activities. The Observatory said at least one person had died in Sunday's violence in Homs's Khalidiyeh district, and that 10 other deaths had been reported elsewhere in the country. "Eighty-five per cent of Homs is under attack", Abu Imad, an activist in Homs, told the BBC. "I'm afraid that there are no safe places left in Homs. We will have to build a new city because there is nothing left," he added.
However, although activist groups on the ground had criticised the UN monitors for being passive observers, they are yet more critical of the abrupt suspension of even that role, reports the BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut. The SNC said the move denied the Syrian people what little protection they had. The Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), a network of activists inside Syria, was also critical. "In the absence of any vision to push for an improvement in the situation, the current decision allows for more bloodshed and enables the regime to buy more time under international cover," the LCC said in a statement. The SNC called on the UN Security Council to move swiftly to put the Annan plan into Chapter Seven, meaning that its implementation could be enforced.