The United Nation's official observer mission in Syria is set to end on August 19, but Russia is now warning that a UN departure could have "extremely negative consequences" for Syria and the region.

"We support an extension of the UN observer mission's mandate in Syria," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Its format may be modified to fit the current situation in the country."

The mission, which up until August 2 was headed by Kofi Annan, is widely seen as a failure, said the BBC, because it has not ended the violence, nor convinced the government to withdraw its heavy weaponry. This, combined with Annan's fraught resignation at the beginning of the month, signaled to many that the mission would not be renewed. According to the Chinese news outlet Xinhua, 21 UN observers have already left the country.

Russia and China are known for backing the Assad regime, and have blocked the passage of several resolutions by the UN Security Council to condemn.  

Sarab Al-Jijakli, a spokesman for the opposition National Alliance for Syria, said that despite Russia's apparent encouragement of UN diplomacy, Moscow is simply covering for its real motives.

"Currently, this is just a cover for the Russians wanting to maintain the status quo, which they very much support," said Al-Jijakli. "They're not trying to be diplomatic. If they were, they would condemn Assad using jets on civilian targets like we saw yesterday."

A fresh round of fighting has sprung up in Aleppo, with at least 36 people dead in an attack on a bakery, and in the town of Azaz near Turkey, with 40 people dead in an air strike.

The 17-month-old protest-turned-civil war has resulted in more than 20,000 people killed, 200,000 people missing or detained, and more than a million people displaced, according to statistics provided by the National Alliance for Syria.