With a political solution seemingly out of reach, the United Nations will begin recalling its military observers. They will, however, set up a political office in Damascus.
NPR's Michele Kelemen sent this report to our Newscast unit:
"After briefing the U.N. Security Council, a top peacekeeping official told reporters that all the military observers will be out before the end of the month. Edmond Mulet says the U.N. will set up a liaison office in Damascus instead, though he's not raising expectations that these U.N. diplomats, human rights and aid experts will be able to do much.
"'It's 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,' Mulet said. 'But that doesn't mean we should not be engaged in that.'
"The State Department says it supports the idea of a small U.N. presence in Syria after military observers leave."
Earlier this month, the U.N.'s peace mission in Syria received a big blow, when its chief architect, international envoy to Syria Kofi Annan resigned from his position.
Annan complained that the Security Council itself had become "an obstacle to diplomacy." Russia and China, who are permanent members, have opposed tougher measures against the regime of Bashar Assad.