US halts funding to UN agency for Palestinian refugees

01 September, 2018, 11:58 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • Trump Admin Ending UN Aid To Palestinian Refugees

Palestinians have accused the White House of using the agency - and the welfare of refugees - as a bargaining chip to pressure Palestinian leadership into a US -brokered peace deal with Israel.

The shake-up is part of the Trump administration's bid to cut its spending overseas, and as the White House drafts its Middle East peace plan.

However, the statement said the U.S. would look for other ways to aid the Palestinians.

It now provides services to five million Palestinian refugees in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Just hours after the Palestinians warned such a move would further undermine the already flailing chances of peace with Israel, Ms Nauert said there would be no additional contributions beyond a $60 million dollar payment in January. The remaining amount - around $290 million - had yet to be allocated.

The US donated $355 million to the agency in 2016 and was set to make a similar contribution this year. Several countries, including Jordan, Egypt, Sweden, Qatar, and the UAE have shown leadership in addressing this problem, but the overall worldwide response has not been sufficient.

But worldwide efforts appear to have done little to assuage the Trump administration's concerns over the United Nations agency's fundamental business model, which it called "simply unsustainable" and described as being in "crisis mode for many years".

A spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' office released a statement late Friday regretting the Trump administration's decision to cut UNRWA funding, saying the UN has appreciated years of United States support for the agency.

The major difference between the two agencies, one of which caters exclusively to "Palestinians" and the other to all the rest of the world's refugees, is that while UNHCR attempts to solve refugee problems by relocating people from trouble areas, UNRWA makes sure they all stay put in sub-human conditions, for seven decades now, with the hope of one day being allowed back in their families' homes in Lod, Ramleh, and Jaffa. Today, there are an estimated 5 million refugees and their descendants, mostly scattered across the region.

The "right of return" is one of the key core issues of dispute in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The State Department also announced last week that Washington had canceled over $200 million in funds for the Palestinian Authority, leading Palestinian officials to denounce the move as "blackmail".

"The consecutive American decisions represent a flagrant assault against the Palestinian people and a defiance of United Nations resolutions", Palestinian Authority spokesperson Nabil Abu Rdainah told Reuters news agency on Friday.

America has contributed nearly 30% to the total budget of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Senior members of the Trump administration have been overtly critical of UNRWA, including national security adviser John Bolton.

It is also a response, in the words of Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to continued Palestinian hostility toward America, which has intensified following USA policy changes that Palestinians deem pro-Israeli.

In Gaza, the group Hamas also condemned the USA move as a "grave escalation against the Palestinian people". She called on Middle East nations to increase aid.



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