The US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday called on Russia to abide by the laws of the sky and cease “irresponsible behavior” when asked about Russian attacks on US drones in Syria.
The US military said a MQ-9 drone over Syria was “severely” damaged when it was hit with a flare from a Russian fighter jet earlier this week, the latest in a series of close interactions between Russian and US military aircraft in the region.
“We call upon the Russian leadership to make sure that they issue guidance to their troops to abide by the laws of the sky and make sure that they cease this irresponsible behavior,” Austin said, when asked about the incident in a news conference in Brisbane, Australia.
Austin and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken are in Australia for the annual Australia-US Ministerial or AUSMIN dialogue.
“We’ll continue to engage using the established channels to convey our concern and we’ll continue to engage senior leadership as appropriate. But, again, we will continue to operate, as we have always operated in the airspaces, and we will protect our interests and our resources,” said Austin.
The defense secretary spoke as a top UN official said the UN had been forced to cut food, cash payments and assistance to millions of people in many countries because of “a crippling funding crisis” that had seen its donations plummet by about half as acute hunger is hitting record levels.
Carl Skau, deputy executive director of the World Food Programme, said that at least 38 of the 86 countries where WFP operates have already seen cuts or plan to cut assistance soon — including Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and West Africa.
He said WFP’s operating requirement is $20 billion to deliver aid to everyone in need, but it was aiming for between $10 billion and $14 billion, which was what the agency had received in the past few years.
“We’re still aiming at that, but we have only so far this year gotten to about half of that, around $5 billion,” Skau said.
He said humanitarian needs were “going through the roof” in 2021 and 2022 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine and its global implications.
“Those needs continue to grow, those drivers are still there,” he said, “but the funding is drying up. So we’re looking at 2024 (being) even more dire.”
“The largest food and nutrition crisis in history today persists,” Skau said
“This year, 345 million people continue to be acutely food insecure while hundreds of millions of people are at risk of worsening hunger.”
Skau said conflict and insecurity remain the primary drivers of acute hunger around the world, along with climate change, unrelenting disasters, persistent food price inflation and mounting debt stress — all during a slowdown in the global economy.
WFP is looking to diversify its funding base, but he also urged the agency’s traditional donors to “step up and support us through this very difficult time.”
Source : Arab News