The suffering of the Syrian people is getting worse amidst escalating violence, the head of the United Nations (UN) mission in the country said on Tuesday, days after the mission suspended its monitoring activities.
Major-General Robert Mood, the head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), said the suffering of men, women and children in the affected areas is 'getting worse', with some of them trapped by the fighting between pro-government forces and anti-government forces.
Mood, who spoke with reporters following a closed-door meeting with the UN Security Council, said UNSMIS observers have been working in difficult circumstances in which they faced direct targeting and violence, including shelling, small arms fire and other incidents. This led the mission to suspend its monitoring activities.
"I made that decision based on the risks on the ground and based on the fact that risks made it extremely difficult to implement mandated tasks," Mood said. The UN Security Council established UNSMIS in April to monitor violence in Syria and the implementation of a six-point peace plan put forward by UN-Arab League Special Envoy Kofi Annan.
The six-point plan calls for an end to all violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue that takes into account the aspirations of the Syrian people, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media. Both sides initially agreed to the plan but have failed to implement it.
Mood said the decision to suspend the mission's monitoring activities is being reviewed on a daily basis, and the first condition for the suspension to be lifted would be a significant reduction of violence. In addition, both the Syrian government and the opposition need to make a commitment to ensure the safety and security of the UN observers, as well as their freedom of movement.
"The Government has expressed that very clearly in the last couple of days. I've not seen the same clear statements from the opposition yet," Mood said. Hervé Ladsous, the UN's Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said UNSMIS remains an 'indispensable tool' to help find and implement a political solution.
The crisis in Syria began in March 2011 as a pro-democracy protest movement, similar to those across the Middle East and North Africa. The Syrian government violently cracked down on the protests, setting off an armed conflict between pro-Assad forces and anti-government forces. More than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in the violence.