UNITED NATIONS, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Global leaders and aid groups urged the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday to push for humanitarian access in Syria and prevent thousands of people displaced by the 17-month conflict from being "held hostage" by the world body's political deadlock.
The 15-member council has been paralyzed when it comes to taking strong action - including threatening sanctions - against Damascus. Russia and China have blocked three Western-backed attempts to pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and end the conflict that began as peaceful pro-democracy protests.
Five members of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders promoting peace and human rights, and aid groups Save the Children, Refugees International and the Norwegian Refugee Council called on the council to stem Syria's aid crisis.
"Over one and a half million people inside Syria are now internally displaced persons, uprooted from their homes as a result of the conflict in Syria," the group wrote in a letter to U.N. Security Council ambassadors.
"Most are in dire need of humanitarian assistance," the group said. "We urge you not to allow the welfare of thousands of displaced people in Syria to be held hostage to the ongoing deadlock at the political level."
The Elders who signed the letter were former Irish President Mary Robinson, former President of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former Prime Minister of Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Education Minister of Mozambique Graça Machel and Ela Bhatt, founder of India's Self-Employed Women's Association.
Humanitarian conditions in Syria have deteriorated as fighting worsens, cutting off civilians from food supplies, health care and other assistance, U.N. agencies say.
The United Nations has said more than 18,000 have died and some 170,000 people have fled the country as a result of the fighting in Syria. U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos said last week that up to 2.5 million people in Syria needed aid.
"We feel it is critical to reach an agreement with Syrian authorities on securing humanitarian access inside Syria and to ensure that funds are available to respond to the needs on the ground," The Elders members and the aid groups wrote.