By Marwan Makdesi
DAMASCUS, July 5 (Reuters) - The head of U.N. monitors in Syria said on Thursday the mission must stay, despite the fact that the ceasefire they were sent to police is non-existent and violence is reaching an "unprecedented level".
General Robert Mood said the 300-strong mission should be restructured to help support the political dialogue that foreign powers say is the only way out of the crisis.
"Now we are in a situation where we have the contacts and knowledge, but we have no ceasefire. So it is time to stop spreading ourselves out too thin and restructure in a way that will allow us, once we resume our activities, to conduct targeted tasks that require longer periods of stay in particular areas," Mood told a news conference in Damascus.
Diplomats at the United Nations in New York said last month they were considering scaling down or eliminating the unarmed observer force, whose mission is currently suspended, if the bloodshed was not significantly reduced.
Activists say more than 15,000 people have been killed since the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. In recent weeks, they have reported death tolls of around 100 a day.
Special Envoy Kofi Annan sent the U.N. monitors to observe the implementation of a ceasefire that was agreed in April. Although this quickly fell apart, the monitors have been instrumental in reporting on massacres of civilians.
Annan has now changed tactics, working to create a political transition plan through an "Action Group" of representatives from Western and Gulf Arab states supporting Assad's opponents, and Syria's main ally Russia, which is backed by China.
Mood said consolidating the mission's eight bases across Syria into regional centres would give it "the flexibility to effectively work on facilitating political dialogue and stability projects", although he did not explain how this would work.
The U.N. Security Council will determine the monitoring mission's fate in the coming weeks, but Mood said world powers should continue to seek a solution, no matter what the decision.
China on Thursday said the United Nations "should strive to implement the consensus" reached at the Geneva talks.
"Right now, we believe that finding a political resolution to the Syria issue has entered a crucial phase," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said.
Mood said the international community had a moral as well as political responsibility towards Syria's people.
"We cannot and will not turn our eyes and ears away from your plight and will continue our work to find new paths to political dialogue and peaceful resolution to the crisis," the Norwegian general said. (Writing by Erika Solomon; Editing by Douglas Hamilton and Kevin Liffey)