Despite behind the scenes negotiations aimed at ending the war in Syria to better alleviate the worsening humanitarian crisis, the UN envoy to the country has said the country is still deeply divided .

The UN Special Envoy for Syria said on Monday that the country remains mired in division despite months of “potentially significant diplomacy” aimed at bringing the 12-year-old conflict to a “negotiated end”.

Geir Pedersen’s comments came during the diplomat’s briefing of the UN Security Council, where he also warned that the protraction of the conflict was deepening the humanitarian crisis.

Pedersen also expressed his “disappointment” at Russia’s use of its veto power at the security council to block cross-border humanitarian aid that is designed to help 4 million Syrians.

“How are the Syrians meant to believe that some broader progress is possible, and how are they meant to be encouraged to overcome their own deep differences, if consensus on humanitarian basics among international parties is elusive?” Pedersen told the council.

Divided and conquered

The UN diplomat pointed out that influence in Syria is divided territorially between five foreign armed forces, something which has ingrained and broadened division in the country and cost civilian lives.

Iran and Russia have an occupying presence in the area of the country formally ruled by Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey has a military presence in the northwest to counter the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The US has bases in the Kurdish-held northeast to counter the Islamic State group, meanwhile, Israel continues to carry out strikes on Iran and its proxy forces.

Fire, hunger and indifference

In the same briefing, the head of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Ramesh Rajasingham gave a dire account of the situation across all of Syria.

The price of essential food commodities has risen by over 90 percent this year and almost 12 million Syrians do not have enough to eat, Rajasingham reported.

Almost three million are at serious risk of starvation and in the northwest, extreme heat is a serious risk to life with more than 40 wildfires reported from the 15 to 17 of July alone.

Most devastatingly, while Assad and Russia block aid to Syrians, Rajasingham painted a picture of the the rest of the world simply ignores their needs.

“Despite these severe vulnerabilities, the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan for Syria is only 12.4 percent funded,” he said.

“To give you an example of what this means in practice: beneficiaries of food assistance are currently receiving only 50 per cent of the standard ration size … assistance to up to 40 percent of them – or 2.5 million people – has been discontinued this month due to funding shortfalls.”