Updated: 17/08/12 : 06:52:58
The United Nations has called an end to its doomed observer mission in Syria, as the battle between rebels and government forces in Aleppo continues.
The Security Council has instead backed a new liaison office in Damascus to support UN and Arab League efforts to end the country's 18-month conflict.
The 300 unarmed observers will be replaced with a small group of military advisers and political, human rights and civil affairs experts, under a proposals from UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon.
Security Council president Gerard Araud said it had been agreed that conditions for an extension of the mission - a major drop in violence and the end of the use of heavy weapons - had not been met and that it would end on Sunday.
The mission has been severely limited in its work by the violence in the country, and members have been mainly confined to their hotels since June 15.
"It is 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," said deputy UN peacekeeping chief Edmond Mulet.
The move comes two weeks after Kofi Annan quit as the UN and Arab League's joint special envoy to Syria in frustration at the failure of his peace plan.
With the violence showing no signs of abating, Russia, which with China has blocked three UN resolutions on the crisis, urged the international community to make a joint appeal for the regime and rebels to end the fighting.
It has called a meeting at the United Nations in New York on Friday to further discuss how to contain the spreading conflict.
Western powers and Russia remain at odds in the Security Council over the fate of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
Meanwhile, activists reported that Syrian forces shelled a group of people queuing outside a bakery in the Qadi Askar district of eastern Aleppo.
The fight to control Syria's second city and commercial hub has been the focus of rebels and regime forces for some weeks now.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 10 people were killed in Qadi Askar, and at least 99 had died in violence across the country on Thursday, most of them civilians.
On Wednesday, around 40 people, including women and children, were killed in a massive air strike on civilians in the rebel bastion of Aazaz, just north of Aleppo, according to rights groups and residents.
Human Rights Watch has urged the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Syria after the air strike on Aazaz.
"Yet again, Syrian government forces attacked with callous disregard for civilian life," it said.