The chief U.N. military observer in Syria, Major General Robert Mood, said on Thursday that he is opposed to his 300-strong team being armed.
“I’ve made it quite clear, from my point of view, that to give weapons to a small force of observers is not a good option,” Mood told a press conference in the Syrian capital.
A team of some 300 unarmed observers has been deployed to monitor an April 12 ceasefire that has never taken hold. The truce was part of a six-point peace plan drawn up by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
The U.N. monitors suspended their operations in mid-June due to escalating violence.
“Our engagement with the Syrian people, the Syrian families, is based on our coming unarmed, that we are accepting and honoring the hospitality of the Syrian people,” Mood said.
“The minute you come with a rifle and knock on somebody’s door it’s a totally different story,” said the general, who urged all sides in the Syrian conflict to stop the violence and open dialogue.
As well as a ceasefire, Anan’s tattered peace deal also envisaged access for humanitarian aid, the release of all political detainees, the launch of an inclusive political process, peaceful demonstrations and that journalists be allowed to work freely in Syria.
More than 16,500 people have been killed in violence in Syria ever since an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad broke out in March last year, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.