RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
After a week of escalating violence in Syria, the chief U.N. official there in the country said today that efforts to resolve the conflict have had little effect. It was a bleak assessment from the man leading the United Nations observer mission for the past six months. NPR's Deborah Amos joins us from Damascus, where she has been out with observers assessing the situation.
And Deb, what was the message today from Major General Robert Mood?
DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: It was very, very grim. It was a room full of reporters, and he said that the mission was close to failure. Over the past 10 days, there has been the most serious escalation in violence since the U.N. mission began. All day, even today, there had been ferocious fighting and an assault across the country. And General Robert Mood said it's limiting the mission's ability to observe, report, verify, and he said there is no sign that the violence is abating.
MONTAGNE: And did he say anything about the monitors themselves - I mean, how the work has been for them and where it goes from here?
AMOS: Well, he said that for them, the risk is becoming too high. And some countries that have allowed unarmed monitors to come here are reassessing. They have been surrounded by pro-government crowds. They have been shot at. I've seen their cars, and you can see the windows that have been cracked by bullets that have been fired at them. They just can't go and observe. The violence is too hot for them.
As we were sitting there, there were Syrian journalists who asked him: Why can't you stop the violence? And he said: It's not my job. I have 300 peacekeepers. It has to be the sides that want to quit. And at the moment, the government offensive continues, and the rebels are trying to hold onto territory that they have taken over the past couple of months.
MONTAGNE: And with this bleak view from the U.N., what comes next, then, for the monitors?
AMOS: Well, this mission ends in July, and there is no plan B for what to do here. There's no agreement on how to stop the violence. The Syrian government is determined to wipe these government strongholds, but the past couple of months have shown that every time they do that, the rebels come back. It is a tsunami that they are up against. There are more and more coming.
MONTAGNE: Deb, thank you.
AMOS: Thank you, Renee.
MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Deborah Amos, speaking to us from Damascus.
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