Peace envoy Kofi Annan
BEIRUT - The UN mission to Syria is seen as a last chance for diplomacy to end the bloodshed in the strife-torn country, experts say, while expressing scepticism about its chances of success.
"The international community continues to press this mission forward, particularly the Russians and the Chinese, because it's ... something they can all agree on," said analyst Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center.
But he said there were widely differing expectations as to the chances of the UN ceasefire mission resolving a 13-month conflict the United Nations says has left more than 9,000 people dead.
"Among the key Arab and Western nations, there is a strong sense that, even if it fails, the mission is a necessary step," Shaikh told AFP. "On the Russian side, whether it's genuine or not, they believe that this is the best hope of establishing a UN fact on the ground and kind of stabilising the situation."
While admitting that the ceasefire plan that went into effect April 12 is fraught with difficulties, peace envoy Kofi Annan has said the UN Security Council vote to deploy 300 observers marks a "pivotal" moment for the stabilisation of the country.
Critics, however, including activists on the ground, say the UN resolution simply allows the regime of Bashar al-Assad to buy more time.
They point to the fact that despite the presence of an advance team of UN observers in Syria, the violence has continued unabated, with nearly 300 people dying in the past two weeks.
"What this mission is doing is buying time for Assad to continue to do what he's been doing," said Shaikh. "The death toll on a daily basis falls within what are still being considered acceptable parameters set by the international community.
"No one has yet the courage to come out and clearly say that there is no ceasefire. The situation is continuing to worsen; it's not getting any better."