Actress Angelina Jolie pleaded with world powers Friday to help the millions of Syrian refugees, sharply criticizing the UN Security Council for being paralyzed by its division over Syria's four-year conflict.

Jolie briefed the council as special envoy for the UN on refugee issues.

Syria's ambassador said simply of her presence, "She's beautiful."

Nearly four million Syrians have fled the conflict into neighbouring countries, which warn they are dangerously overstretched.

MIDEAST-CRISIS/ANGELINA-JOLIE

Angelina Jolie's duties as UNHCR envoy include travelling to various vulnerable areas of the world. On Jan. 25, she met members of the Yazidi minority in Khanke internally displaced person (IDP) Camp in Dohuk, northern Iraq. (REUTERS)

"We cannot look at Syria, and the evil that has arisen from the ashes of indecision, and think this is not the lowest point in the world's inability to protect and defend the innocent," Jolie said.

"We are standing by in Syria," she said, adding that the council's powers lie unused because its members cannot agree on how to address the conflict.

Jolie, who said she has made 11 visits to Syrian refugees in the region since the crisis began in 2011, called strongly for the political will to act.

Council must 'work as one'

Russia, a top Syria ally and backed by China, has vetoed multiple council resolutions on Syria, including an effort last year to refer the situation there to the International Criminal Court.

Jolie said the council must now "work as one," and she said she would like to see the foreign minister of each of the 15 council members come to the table to negotiate a political solution.

She also urged council members to visit Syrian refugees and see the crisis for themselves.

In addition, Jolie spoke briefly about the rising migrant crisis on the Mediterranean, where more than 1,300 migrants fleeing Syria and other places have drowned at sea over the past three weeks.

"It is sickening to see thousands of refugees drowning on the doorstep of the world's wealthiest continent," she said. "No one risks the lives of their children in this way except out of utter desperation."  

The UN promoted Jolie to special envoy in 2012 after the actress served 10 years as goodwill ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.

In her time with the agency, Jolie has been on 50 field missions to more than 30 countries, including Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria.

With files from CBC News