UN fails to stop death toll and proxy war in Syria

The United Nations as a whole has been unable to offer a path out of the Syrian war that has dragged on for four years which left an estimated 220,000 dead and spread havoc across the region. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/13/world/middleeast/aid-agencies-fault-un-security-council-on-syria-conflict.html?ref=world
Criticism of the Security Council piled on this week as its members Russia and the United States continued to support opposing sides in the war. A coalition of 21 aid organizations faulted the Council for not enforcing its own measures, calling the humanitarian situation in Syria “a stain on the conscience of the international community.”
The damage that the war has done to the United Nations’ reputation seems not to have been lost on its secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. He bluntly described the world powers as “incapable of taking collective action,” and said there had been an “exponential rise in war crimes” because no one had been held accountable.
Mr. Ban also increased the pressure on the Syrian government, saying it was “incumbent upon the Syrian parties themselves, including, especially, President Bashar al-Assad, to take decisive steps to end the bloodshed and to start a political process.” He added sharply, “Governments or movements that aspire to legitimacy do not
massacre their own people.” The departing emergency relief coordinator for the United Nations, Valerie
Amos, said she hoped countries with influence over the warring parties could talk through their differences. Those countries, she said, should include Iran.
“I do think it is important to find a way of including Iran in the discussions,” she said on Thursday in a brief telephone interview. “I don’t know how that might be done. It’s possible that after the nuclear talks that offers an opportunity.”
Even the Security Council’s one notable achievement — compelling Syria to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal — has been undermined by recent reports of the use of chlorine in aerial bombardments. The Council adopted a resolution last week threatening to take further measures if anyone uses it again.
“I fear the Syrian war will become one of the darkest chapters in the history of the United Nations,” said Jan Egeland, a former United Nations relief coordinator who now heads the Norwegian Refugee Council, one of the 21 aid groups that issued the report. “The organization was founded on the ruins of World War II precisely to avoid conflicts like this one engulfing a whole region.”
The Council adopted two resolutions last year that authorized United Nations aid agencies to send convoys across Syria’s borders without its government’s consent. Those convoys have been going into the country, but United Nations officials have repeatedly said they are stymied, including by government forces who prohibit medical equipment from entering rebel-held areas. The resolutions also specifically cited the use of so-called barrel bombs as a violation of international law; those bombings have continued.
The Security Council has taken no punitive action. Russia, which has veto power on the Council, remains a powerful ally of the Syrian government.
The coalition of aid agencies, which also includes Oxfam and the International Rescue Committee, went on to say that aid access had not improved, and that compared with 2013, an additional 2.3 million people were living in areas that were “hard to reach,” bringing the total to 4.8 million Syrians. Last year aid convoys departing from Damascus, the government-controlled capital, reached fewer people than they did the year before.
Unicef said on Thursday that it had recorded at least 68 attacks on schools in 2014 alone, and that about 2.8 million children were still struggling to attend school amid the destruction.
Separately, Physicians for Human Rights, in a report earlier this week, said government forces were responsible for the vast majority of targeted attacks against medical personnel and that rebel groups had followed the government example when they saw the “international community’s indifference.”
Russia, along with China, vetoed a draft resolution last year that would have referred the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. Western diplomats have privately said they could bring up a similar measure again, now that there is mounting evidence of war crimes committed by not just the government but by its opponents in the Islamic State.
The United Nations envoy, Mr. de Mistura, has spent six months trying to persuade both sides to agree to a temporary truce in the strategic northern city of Aleppo. In February, he told the Council that he had persuaded the government to a six-week cessation, including halting all aerial bombardments.
That announcement seems to have been premature. A few days later, a council of rebel leaders said they would meet with United Nations officials only if Mr. de Mistura’s proposed freeze led to Mr. Assad’s departure.
Mr. de Mistura’s critics said he had failed to see that he was being manipulated by the Assad government.
Of the diplomatic overtures, the United Nations’ top official for political affairs, Jeffrey Feltman said this week, “It has not gone swimmingly well.”
A Council diplomat put it more bluntly Thursday. “It seems dead,” the diplomat said.

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