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2015 Worst Year Yet For Syria's War, Human Rights Report Says


International aid and human rights groups are marking five years of civil war in Syria with a new report that's out today. That report says conditions are getting worse and not better. Fifty-thousand civilians killed, nearly a million more people forced to flee their homes and that is over the past 18 months. These groups, which include Oxfam and Care International, are laying much of the blame at the feet of Russia, France, Britain and the United States. NPR's Peter Kenyon is on the line from Istanbul. Peter, good morning.


GREENE: So why the finger-pointing at these four countries?

KENYON: Well, while they do state the obvious right off the bat that it's the Syrian regime and armed opposition groups and the Islamic State that are primarily responsible for all this killing, it then goes on to say at some length that Russia, the U.S., France and Britain, these permanent members of the Security Council could be crucial to ending the suffering. But instead, they're undermining their own resolutions by continuing to arm people on the ground, contributing their own military strikes and failing, they argue, to sufficiently pressure their allies to save lives.

GREENE: But failing to stop the war is different than - this report is actually saying these countries are making things worse.

KENYON: That's right. It's a - quite a damning allegation coming from groups that have not been all that vocal before and groups, we should note, that need some level of government support to do their jobs.

GREENE: Well, so Peter, do these groups clump these four countries together and lay blame, you know, basically equally?

KENYON: To some extent. But Russia does come in for special criticism over its deadly airstrikes. Also, the report says for failing to stop the Syrian regime from using things like besieging and starvation as weapons of war. Earlier this week in Geneva, Jan Egeland with the Norwegian Refugee Council, one of the groups behind this report, said there are still seven areas from the list of besieged areas where they can't get aid to people. And he said every single one of them is being besiege either by the Syrian government or the Islamic State. So that clearly puts the blame I think on one side of it more than another.

GREENE: Is there any patience at all Peter because, I mean, the U.S. and Russia have this cease-fire in place. It's fragile, but one of the keys has been to open up some of these areas to humanitarian aid. It doesn't sound like these groups are being patient with Russia and the U.S. at all here.

KENYON: Well - and yes - and these positive developments did come, most likely just as this report was being finalized and ready for release. So they had to add in the bit about it at the very end. And they do say it's the most hopeful thing that's happened. But they say now the tremendous test facing all these world powers is to get their allies on the ground to keep their guns quiet, allow humanitarian aid in and hope that diplomats can get something more permanent in the way of a cease-fire.

GREENE: So the report ends on - with a little bit of optimism at least. I mean, a moment when the U.N. is trying diplomatically to reach some kind of political transition in Syria.

KENYON: Yes, there's some hope, more certainly than there has been. But the report basically says major changes are going to be needed both on the part of the combatants and their international allies. And there's not a lot of sign of that yet.

GREENE: All right, NPR's Peter Kenyon in Istanbul reporting on a new report about violence in Syria that appears to just be getting worse at this point. Peter, thanks.

KENYON: Thanks, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.