“In this high risk situation, UNSMIS is suspending its activities,” Mood said. “U.N . observers will not be conducting patrols and will stay in their locations until further notice.”
Mood said the suspension would be reviewed on a daily basis, and that the monitors would resume their activities “when we see the situation fit for us to carry out our mandated activities.”
But at a time when both sides in the conflict appear to be ramping up the violence, the prospects that conditions will improve soon appeared remote.
The collapse of the U.N. mission in Syria would effectively close the international community’s main window into the crisis in Syria and expose the United Nations to charges of abandoning civilians to slaughter. The demise of the monitoring effort would also increase pressure on the United States, Russia and other key powers to forge a new diplomatic strategy to contain a crisis that threatens to engulf the region.
“I have no doubt that we’re going to face a long and bloody summer,” said Salman Shaikh, a former U.N. official who serves as the director of the Brookings Doha Center. “By pulling these guys out, the international community will face a difficult choice: Is it going to get behind a much more coercive approach or is it going to allow the regime to kill hundreds if not thousands of civilians over the next few months?”
On Friday, Mood hinted that a suspension was possible when he warned reporters at a news conference in Damascus that it was becoming increasingly difficult for the 300-strong, unarmed observer mission to carry out its responsibilities.
“Violence, over the past 10 days, has been intensifying . . . willingly by the both parties, with losses on both sides and significant risks to our observers,” he said. “The escalating violence is now limiting our ability to observe, verify, report as well as assist in local dialogue and stability projects.”
In response to the heightened risks, Mood had already ordered the mission to scale back its patrols and other activities in Syria, according to two U.N. officials briefed on the decision.
Mood’s steps come as representatives of the more than 60 governments providing monitors to the U.N. mission have warned that the dangers faced by U.N. blue helmets might have grown too serious to justify their presence in Syria, particularly when the peace process is stalled.
On Wednesday, Brazil, India, Ireland and other countries with observers on the ground voiced anxiety about the security of their personnel. There is a “concern among the member states providing observers that the risk level is approaching the level where they are not willing to accept it any more,” Mood said.