(NEW YORK) — The United Nations has decided to end its monitoring mission in Syria a few days earlier than next Sunday’s original expiration date following a bombing in Damascus Wednesday that came too close for comfort to its observer headquarters.
Gerard Araud, France’s ambassador to the U.N., told reporters in New York Thursday, “The mandate of UNSMIS is over,” while deputy U.N. peacekeeping chief Edmond Mulet delivered this parting shot: “It is clear that both sides have chosen the path of war, open conflict, and the space for political dialogue and cessation of hostilities and mediation is very, very reduced at this point.”
There were 300 international monitors deployed by the U.N. to determine if President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and Syrian rebels were adhering to former envoy Kofi Annan’s dictum to end the longstanding feud that has resulted in an estimated 21,000 deaths over the past 18 months.
However, the monitors’ mission was plagued from the onset by frequent violations of the supposed ceasefire, largely broken by al-Assad and his military. For the most part, the lives of the observers were always in danger, making their task nearly impossible.
Russia expressed disappointment with the U.N.’s decision to end the monitors’ mission and is pushing for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria, even as the U.S. and the West have accused Moscow of throwing up most of the obstacles to get al-Assad to cede power so that a peaceful transition can take place.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Rafael Romo and Patrick Gillespie, CNN
Michael Pearson and Steve Almasy, CNN
Ray Sanchez, CNN
Kareem Khadder, CNN