UN suspends Syria observer mission

The UN military observers sent to Syria to monitor an April 12 ceasefire that never took hold have suspended their mission, veteran peacekeeper Norwegian Major General Robert Mood said on Saturday.

Speaking of intensified violence over the past 10 days, the risk to observers and the “lack of willingness by the parties to seek a peaceful solution,” Mood said the mission is “suspending its activities.”
 “There has been an intensification of armed violence across Syria over the past 10 days,” the mission chief said in a statement.

“This escalation is limiting our ability to observe, verify, report as well as assist in local dialogue and stability projects – basically impeding our ability to carry out our mandate.

The decision was initially taken on Friday night but not publicized until Saturday, according to a document obtained by Inner City Press.

The Syrian foreign ministry said it “understands” the decision of the UN observers’ mission head to suspend work in the country, saying “terrorist groups” were threatening its members.

“The ministry understands the decisions taken by General Robert Mood, particularly those related to preserving the safety of observers,” the official SANA news agency reported, referring to the head of the UN mission.

The report said that the ministry was “notified” on Friday night by General Mood. “The armed terrorist groups have intensified their criminal operations, especially those against UN observers, and are threatening their lives,” the ministry said.

Both government forces and armed rebels have continued to flaunt the terms of the ceasefire, and Mood suggested both sides were responsible for the suspension.

“The lack of willingness by the parties to seek a peaceful transition, and the push towards advancing military positions is increasing the losses on both sides: innocent civilians, men women and children are being killed every day.”

“It is also posing significant risks to our observers. In this high risk situation, UNSMIS (United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria) is suspending its activities,” Mood said.

An Al-Akhbar correspondent in Syria said three UN vehicles had been seen in the capital Damascus with their windows broken.

Mood said the suspension will be reviewed on a daily basis, and that “operations will resume when we see the situation fit for us to carry out our mandated activities.”

Mood said on Friday that the escalating bloodshed was hampering the ability of observers to carry out their duties.

While no observers have as yet been killed, there have been increasing concerns that they would be targeted.

Last week observers trying to reach the beleaguered city of Haffa were attacked with stones, metal rods and gunfire, eventually forcing them to turn back.

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