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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Actress Angelina Jolie pleaded with world powers Friday to help the millions of Syrian refugees, sharply criticizing the U.N. Security Council for being paralyzed by its division over Syria’s four-year conflict.
Jolie briefed the council as special envoy for the U.N. on refugee issues.
Syria’s ambassador said simply of her presence, “She’s beautiful.”
Nearly 4 million Syrians have fled the conflict into neighboring countries, which warn they are dangerously overstretched.
“We cannot look at Syria, and the evil that has arisen from the ashes of indecision, and think this is not the lowest point in the world’s inability to protect and defend the innocent,” Jolie said.
“We are standing by in Syria,” she said, adding that the council’s powers lie unused because its members cannot agree on how to address the conflict.
Jolie, who said she has made 11 visits to Syrian refugees in the region since the crisis began in 2011, called strongly for the political will to act.
Russia, a top Syria ally and backed by China, has vetoed multiple council resolutions on Syria, including an effort last year to refer the situation there to the International Criminal Court.
Jolie said the council must now “work as one,” and she said she would like to see the foreign minister of each of the 15 council members come to the table to negotiate a political solution.
She also urged council members to visit Syrian refugees and see the crisis for themselves.
In addition, Jolie spoke briefly about the rising migrant crisis on the Mediterranean, where more than 1,300 migrants fleeing Syria and other places have drowned at sea over the past three weeks.
“It is sickening to see thousands of refugees drowning on the doorstep of the world’s wealthiest continent,” she said. “No one risks the lives of their children in this way except out of utter desperation.”
Jolie spoke on a full day of briefings on Syria, which was expected to include the details of a new plan for peace talks by the U.N. special envoy for the crisis.
A spokesman for envoy Staffan de Mistura said Iran, another Syria ally, is among the parties invited to attend the talks that will start in early May in Geneva. Iran has not responded, Michael Contet said in an email.
The new talks are structured as a series of separate meetings with each party, an effort to avoid the tensions that have hurt previous negotiations. De Mistura was set to brief the council Friday afternoon behind closed doors.
The U.N.’s outgoing and outspoken humanitarian coordinator, Valerie Amos, challenged the divided council to mandate a fact-finding mission into the roughly 440,000 Syrians who are besieged in Syria and risk death by starvation, dehydration and the lack of medical care.
“The government, armed and terrorist groups continue to kill, maim, rape, torture and take Syria to new lows that seemed unimaginable a few years ago,” she said. “People have become numb to figures that should, every day, shock our collective conscience.”
The council should mandate the negotiation of humanitarian pauses to allow the delivery of aid, Amos said, and it should enforce an arms embargo and sanctions for the “shocking lack of respect for the most basic rules of international humanitarian law,” including intentional blockage of aid.
The U.N. refugee chief, Antonio Guterres, told the council that 14 million people are now displaced in the “interlinked crises” in Syria and Iraq, where the Islamic State group seized territory in the past year. as become utterly unsustainable,” Guterres said.
He called for “massively increased support” for Syria’s neighbors under the flood of refugees, pointing out that as Lebanon and Jordan are considered middle-income countries, the World Bank can’t give them grants for efforts to deal with the “severe demographic shock they have endured.” Guterres said such policies should be reviewed.
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