'Critical Juncture' in Syria as U.S. Seeks Next Stepsإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
The White House renewed calls Saturday for Bashar Assad to step down at a "critical juncture" in Syria after U.N. observers suspended their mission, saying it was discussing the way ahead with allies.
The unarmed observers have been targeted almost daily since deploying in mid-April to monitor a U.N.-backed but widely flouted ceasefire brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan, and they were likened to "sitting ducks in a shooting gallery" by Susan Rice, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations.
"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 official said.
Explaining the decision to halt the observer operation, mission head Major General Robert Mood spoke of an escalation in fighting and of the risk to his 300-strong team, as well as the "lack of willingness" for peace by the warring parties.
"At this critical juncture, we are consulting with our international partners regarding next steps toward a Syrian-led political transition as called for in Security Council Resolutions 2042 and 2043," the White House official added.
"The sooner this transition takes place, the greater the chance of averting a lengthy and bloody sectarian civil war."
U.N. Security Council resolutions 2042 and 2043 addressed the deployment of monitors to Syria.
Mood said the observers will now no longer conduct patrols and will remain at their locations until further notice, adding that "operations will resume when we see the situation fit for us to carry out our mandated activities."
Violence in Syria has killed more than 14,400 people since an uprising against the Assad regime erupted in mid-March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The U.N. mission's suspension came two months into its three-month mandate, and after the United Nations accused both sides in the Syria conflict of willingly intensifying the violence.
With world powers at loggerheads over how to stem the bloodletting, Syrian ally Russia urged that pressure be increased "on both the regime and the opposition (to) make them cease fighting" and start talking peace.