UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the Security Council on Thursday to overcome divisions and take action to end the war in Syria as the conflict entered its fifth year with little prospect for peace.
The appeal came on the heels of scathing criticism from 21 human rights and aid groups who accused world powers of “failing Syria” in a report that highlighted the worsening plight of civilians.
“The Syrian people feel increasingly abandoned by the world as they enter the fifth year of the war that has torn their country apart,” Ban said in a statement.
The suffering continues “under the eyes of the international community, still divided and incapable of taking collective action to stop the killing and destruction,” he said.
“I call upon the Security Council to take determined measures to resolve this crisis and on the way forward.”
The Security Council has been plagued by deep divisions over how to put Syria on the road to peace, with Russia blocking moves to punish its ally President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.
A plan by UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura for a freeze in fighting in the northern city of Aleppo appears to be making little headway, as the death toll mounts.
Last year was the deadliest yet in the war, with at least 76,000 people killed out of more than 210,000 since it began on March 15, 2011 with peaceful demonstrations, inspired by the Arab Spring in Egypt and Tunisia.
More than four million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries and 7.6 million civilians are displaced within the country as Assad’s forces battle opposition rebels and extremists from the Islamic State group.
While world powers were rightfully mobilizing to defeat IS extremists, “our focus must continue to be with the Syrian people,” Ban said.
Each day brings horrors
The UN chief called on the international community to “unite and lend its full support” to UN efforts to forge a deal for a political transition in Syria and to bring those responsible for atrocities to justice.
“Each day brings reports of fresh horrors,” Ban said, citing executions, arbitrary arrests, abductions and torture.
“We have an obligation to the Syrian people to help ensure that serious crimes committed over the past four years do not go unpunished,” he said.
Russia and China last year vetoed a Security Council resolution on referring Syria to the International Criminal Court for war crimes prosecutions.
Diplomats have said there could be another push for accountability, but there are no signs that Russia would allow the Damascus regime to face ICC investigations.
In their report, the aid groups including Oxfam and Save the Children gave the Security Council a “fail grade,” pointing to three resolutions that were adopted last year to help civilians, but never implemented.
UN agencies are struggling to deliver aid to 4.8 million Syrians who live in “hard to reach” areas, besieged by government forces or controlled by IS militants.
International funding for refugees and displaced civilians has dropped, with UN officials complaining of “donor fatigue” from governments worldwide.
Ban is due to chair a donors conference in Kuwait on March 31 to help raise millions of dollars needed to address Syria’s deepening humanitarian crisis.
Jan Egeland, a former UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs who now heads the Norwegian Refugee Council, told AFP that the crisis was a “betrayal of our ideals, because we’re not supposed to be watching people suffer and die in 2015.”