The United States is sending its ambassador to Syria back to Damascus after he was recalled in October, a senior Obama administration official has said.
Robert Ford is returning after the administration argued that his presence was important for advancing US policy goals and serving as a witness to the ongoing violence there.
He had been due to return in late November but security concerns delayed his trip.
Mr Ford’s presence in Syria was a symbolic part of President Barack Obama’s effort to engage Damascus, which was without a US ambassador for years.
The Department of State said Mr Ford will report on the situation on the ground and engage with Syrian society on how to end the bloodshed and achieve a peaceful political transition.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to meet members of the Syrian opposition later in a show of support in the face of an eight-month crackdown by President Bashar al Assad.
More than 4,000 people have died since protests broke out in March against the Assad family’s 41-year rule, according to the United Nations.
The UN’s top human rights forum has condemned “gross and systematic” violations by Syrian forces, including executions and the imprisonment of some 14,000 people.
Syrian authorities say they are fighting foreign-backed “terrorist groups” that are trying to spark civil war, and they have killed some 1,100 soldiers and police since March.
Syrian government spokesman Dr Jihad Makdissi told Sky News there were two sides to the story.
“I think what Syria needs… is mediation and good officers to help Syria get out of this crisis. There are violent actions going on, on the ground from both sides.
“There is no secret anymore, what is called the Free Syrian Army, and they are using shoulder-mounted rockets to hit government buildings.
“The military… are trying to restore law and order and there are, of course, mistakes. But you have to know that the other side is not as peaceful as (it’s) picturing itself in your reports.”
US officials said Mrs Clinton will meet seven opposition members in Geneva, Switzerland, where she is to give a speech on human rights.
The United States, the European Union and Turkey have all imposed sanctions on Syria over the violence and the Arab League has announced plans to do the same in an attempt to pressure Assad to end the violence.
Syria said on Monday it conditionally accepts observers as part of an Arab plan, as a rights group reported militiamen loyal to the regime had killed 34 civilians and dumped their bodies in a city square.
The Arab League, which has threatened to impose new sanctions on Damascus if it fails to comply with the plan for monitors, said it was considering the Syrian offer to allow them into the troubled country.
Syria had initially refused to sign an Arab proposal to send in observers to monitor its forces.
But in a letter sent to the Cairo-based Arab League late on Sunday, President Assad’s regime said it would accept the monitors if its conditions were met.
“The Syrian government responded positively to the signing of the protocol” on sending observers “based on the Syrian understanding of this cooperation,” Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdisi said.
Middle East analyst Aaron David Miller, who has advised US secretaries of state, told Sky News the intervention that occurred in Libya will not happen in Syria.
He said the chances of a “dramatic, external military intervention” are “slim to none” and he added that that is a “tragedy”.