UN Enlists Angelina Jolie to Break Through Numbness on Syria

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Angelina Jolie Addresses UN Security Council on Syria

Frustrated by four years of deadlock among world powers on how to end the war in Syria, the United Nations recruited actor Angelina Jolie Pitt to criticize the inaction that’s allowing the suffering of millions of refugees.

“We cannot look at Syria and the evil that has arisen from the ashes of indecision and think that this is not the lowest point in the world’s inability to protect and defend the innocent,” Jolie told the Security Council on Friday in her capacity as special envoy of the UN Refugee Agency.

“The crisis is made worse by division and indecision within the international community preventing the Security Council from fulfilling its responsibilities,” Jolie said.

More than 220,000 Syrians have died since the bloody war began in March 2011, as Russia, with China’s backing, has blocked Security Council resolutions that threatened the longevity of its ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The four resolutions would have ordered sanctions against the Assad regime for refusing a peace plan and prosecution of the regime by a world tribunal.

Jolie, an Academy Award winner who said she made 11 trips to visit Syrian refugees since the conflict began, said hope is fading among almost 4 million Syrians who were forced to flee across borders. She urged the council to visit Syrian refugees to “see at first hand their suffering and the impact on the region.”

Worsening Suffering

Jolie, 39, and her husband, actor Brad Pitt, have adopted orphans including children from Cambodia, Vietnam and Ethiopia. The actor and director also has promoted women’s awareness of cancer risks by writing about her decisions to have her ovaries and breasts removed because she inherited a genetic mutation.

UN humanitarian affairs chief Valerie Amos prefaced Jolie’s speech with an even grimmer picture of the Syrian people’s suffering.

There are fresh allegations of chemical weapons use against civilians who continue to be subjected to indiscriminate fire from air and from underground, Amos said.

More than 7.6 million people are displaced within Syria, and “people risk their lives if they stay and some when they leave as we have seen with those who have drowned in the Mediterranean,” she added.

“People have become numb to figures that should, everyday, shock our collective conscience and spur actions,” she said. “We need the numbness to the senseless violence and the apparent apathy to end.”

Mediation Effort

Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s Syria envoy, briefed the Security Council later Friday on his latest attempt to mediate a political resolution to the conflict.

De Mistura told the Security Council in a closed briefing in New York that the odds for a political transition are no better than they were six months ago, but there’s no other option because a military victory isn’t possible, according to a council diplomat who attended the briefing and asked not to be identified under protocol.

De Mistura has invited the Syrian government and opposition groups for separate “low-key” talks in Geneva next month that will take about four to six weeks, UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told reporters in Geneva earlier Friday.

Invitations also were sent to major world powers and regional players such as the U.S., Russia and Iran, Fawzi said.

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