NZ's Syrian community devastated at loss of life

Protesters at a Free Syria rally in Aotea Square organised by Syrian Solidarity NZ and Amnesty International. File photo / Chris Loufte
Protesters at a Free Syria rally in Aotea Square organised by Syrian Solidarity NZ and Amnesty International. File photo / Chris Loufte

Members of New Zealand's Syrian community are devastated at the escalating loss of life in their home country.

The United States is expanding its military presence in the region, after an apparent chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government which has killed up to 1,000 people.

A spokesman for the community Ali Akil says western countries are not doing enough to stop the Assad regime.

He says the war is bringing Syrians here closer together.

"However, that doesn't spare us from the frustration and the feeling that no matter how much we do, we still feel that we can't do much."

Mr Akil says the Government here should be more vocal in urging the international community to take action in Syria.

"And also to pressure those allies of the Syrian regime to stop providing the killing machine with even more ammunition and weapons."

And an international relations expert says the Syrian crisis shows the United Nations is not equipped to deal with modern conflicts.

Weapons inspectors are trying to get into an area of Damascus, to investigate the alleged chemical attack.

The University of Otago's Dr Robert Patman says China and Russia have used their vetoes to block intervention in Syria, which shows the impotence of the UN.

He says when the organisation was set up it was assumed wars would happen between states, but now most conflicts are within states.

"Syria's a classic case. A civil war waging, which is rapidly affecting the rest of the region.

"Yet the UN seems to be absolutely powerless to deal with the situation, because one or two members of the Security Council believe it will compromise their interest."

The United States Navy is expanding its presence in the region, with Dr Patman saying it could be trying to coerce Syria into co-operating.

"It is also possible that President Obama feels they've tried every option internationally, and may feel now the time has come for one more forceful response led by the United States, and perhaps underpinned by a coalition of the willing."

Syria expert Andrew Tabler told Sky News the reassignment of a large US naval vessel is a sign the mood is changing.

"It looks like President Obama, instead of moving his red line, is considering actually enforcing it.

"The question is how, and when, and after what kind of verification process. That's what we're going to find out here in the coming days."

- Newstalk ZB

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