MEF Offers One Million Dollars to UNRWA

MOHAMMED ABED

MOHAMMED ABED

Belgium pledged $25m to help counter the USA administration's $65m freeze on funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

President Trump reacted on Twitter, noting January 2 "we pay the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars a year and get no appreciation or respect".

But in early January, about two weeks after the United Nations vote, Trump tweeted that, "we pay the Palestinians HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect".

Nauert said the USA voluntarily pledged $60 million for 2018 to sustain schools and health services but the rest of the money is "being frozen at this time" and "held for future consideration".

UNRWA's mandate covers 5.15 million registered Palestinian refugees in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank.

Trump's aides initially debated whether to cut off all UNRWA aid, an unidentified U.S. official said, but those opposed argued that could further destabilise the region.

United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres said he was unaware of any cut in aid but he was "very concerned" about the possibility because it "is an important factor of stability". "We need to start really looking at foreign policy and seeing what the U.S. goals are and where we want to go".

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The Alliance of Baptists' Community for Justice in Palestine & Israel urged members to write letters asking Congress to reject any USA funding cuts for UNRWA and to reverse the administration's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. It is an independent agency, not a Palestinian institution. While Abbas was in Cairo today for a summit on Jerusalem with Arab League officials, the Secretary-General, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, said the U.S.'s "decision does not come apart from recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and [Israeli] settlement building", reported Anadolu Agency.

The US provides about a third of UNRWA's annual budget, along with neighboring Arab states, Arab NGOs, the European Commission, and a variety of global organizations and private foundations. Its commissioner-general, Pierre Krähenbühl says that given the long-standing relationship between the agency and the US, "this reduced contribution threatens one of the most successful human development endeavors" in the Middle East.

Krahenbuhl said 525,000 boys and girls in 700 UNRWA schools could be affected by the fund cut, as well as Palestinian access to primary healthcare, but he pledged to keep facilities open through 2018 and beyond.

She added that the USA administration is targeting vulnerable Palestinians and "depriving the refugees of the right to education, health, shelter and a dignified life".

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was "very concerned" about the impact on the region.

"A big part of the reason we didn't, after a lot of interagency deliberations".

The State Department wrote a letter notifying UNRWA of the decision, spokeswoman Nauert said.

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