United States halts all funding to UN body helping Palestinians

Trump Admin Ending UN Aid To Palestinian Refugees
US to end all funding to UN agency for Palestinian refugees
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01 September, 2018

The Trump administration has chose to cancel all its funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), a unique agency which has been maintaining the refugee status of more than five million people who never left home, the Washington Post reported Thursday night.

This latest report follows last week's announcement by the US State Department that it will cut more than $200 million in bilateral aid to the Palestinian Authority.

UNRWA now looks after more than 5 million people in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

A decision by US President Donald Trump's administration to significantly decrease the country's funding for the United Nations agency has left the UNRWA with a $217 million deficit, which is not going to be covered by Berlin's additional contribution, as announced by Maas.

The US, which roughly provided one-third of the UNRWA's budget, suspended $65 million of the $125 million in aid it planned to contribute to the program back in January.

A Palestinian woman takes part in a protest against possible reductions of the services and aid offered by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in front of UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City August 16, 2015.

"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.

Nauert said the agency's "endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years".

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In a statement, it said the organisation was "irredeemably flawed".

The agency was founded in 1949 after the first Arab-Israeli war, in the wake of the exodus of around 700,000 refugees who fled or were driven out of Israel on its founding as a state.

Earlier on Friday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Germany would increase its contributions to the agency because its funding crisis was fuelling uncertainty. "The loss of this organization could unleash an uncontrollable chain reaction", Maas said.

And in a major blow to the Palestinians earlier this year, President Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel - a change long sought by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and much of the Israeli establishment.

Nauert said the United States would intensify talks with the United Nations, the region's governments and global stakeholders that could involve bilateral US assistance for Palestinian children.

"UNRWA does not perpetuate the conflict, the conflict perpetuates UNRWA", he said.

By the end of September, "UNRWA won't have a penny", the agency's spokesman Chris Gunness warned Wednesday.


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