UN suspends Syria observer mission
The UN mission observing the ceasefire in Syria has suspended operations due to escalating violence, it has been announced.
The future of the peacekeeping mission was cast into doubt yesterday, as the head of the team warned a surge in violence in recent days was putting his observers at risk.
General Robert Mood said both sides in the conflict were showing a "lack of willingness" to find a peaceful solution.
"UN observers will not be conducting patrols and will stay in their locations until further notice," General Mood told a press conference this afternoon.
He insisted his team "remains committed to the aspirations of the Syrian people" and were standing ready to work with all parties "to assist in bringing an end to the violence".
The suspension will be reviewed on a daily basis, and operations will resume when the team sees the situation "fit for us to carry out our mandated activities," he added.
Foreign Secretary William Hague this afternoon issued a statement in response, calling for 'urgent' action by the international community:
“This underlines the extent of the deterioration of security and stability in Syria, and calls into serious question the viability of the UN Mission.
"This worsening situation has been caused by the actions of the Assad regime. As Kofi Annan has said, the Syrian regime bears the primary responsibility for ending the violence and I condemn in the strongest terms its absolute failure to do so.
"I also call on the armed opposition in Syria to stop its violence.
“This development only underscores the need for the international community urgently to come together to compel the regime to meet its commitments."
Earlier in the day, the White House had announced it was "consulting with our international partners regarding next steps toward a Syrian-led political transition as called for in Security Council resolutions".
"We call again on the Syrian regime to uphold its commitments under the Annan plan, including the full implementation of a ceasefire, a White House spokesman added.
The Daily Telegraph reports that Syrian rebels have held meetings with senior US government officials in Washington, in an attempt to negotiate a weapons deal.