USA ends funding for 'flawed' United Nations agency that helps Palestinian refugees

Trump Admin Ending UN Aid To Palestinian Refugees

Trump Admin Ending UN Aid To Palestinian Refugees

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the decision from the Trump administration an attempt to put pressure on Palestinian authorities.

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

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

UNRWA released a statement late Friday rejecting "in the strongest possible terms" the Trump administration's criticism of the agency and expressing "deep regret and disappointment".

For almost 70 years, the agency offered registered Palestinian refugees in the occupied territories, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria access to education, health care and social services in addition to providing support to purchase food.

When it was founded in 1949, the agency was tasked with providing assistance for the 700,000 Palestinians who had either fled or been expelled from their homes during the war that accompanied the foundation of the state of Israel. The Palestinians were further enraged by the opening of the USA embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, which was attended by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has been tasked with trying to revive the essentially moribund Middle East peace process.

Palestinian leaders have cut contact with the US since the Trump administration backed Israel's claim of Jerusalem as its capital.

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 USA -brokered peace deal with Israel.

"By endorsing the most extreme Israeli narrative on all issues including the rights of more than five million Palestinian refugees, the United States administration has lost its status as peacemaker and is damaging not only an already volatile situation but the prospects for future peace", he said.

The decision came after the US State Department announced in January it was cutting its funding for UNRWA by more than half, withholding $65m out of a previously earmarked $125m aid package.

The state department says it remains "deeply concerned regarding the impact upon innocent Palestinians, especially school children, of the failure of Unrwa".

In Gaza, the Islamist group Hamas also condemned the United States move as a "grave escalation against the Palestinian people".

"By endorsing the most extreme Israeli narrative on all issues including the rights of more than five million Palestinian refugees, the USA administration has lost its status as peacemaker and is damaging not only an already volatile situation but the prospects for future peace", Zomlot said in a statement to AFP.

Abu Zuhri said the "US leadership has become an enemy of our people and of our nation and we will not surrender before such unjust decisions".

Germany's foreign ministry has said it will increase contributions to Unrwa to try to maintain stability.

"The loss of this organization could unleash an uncontrollable chain reaction", he said.

Israel has welcomed a controversial move by the United States to cut funding to a United Nations agency supporting Palestinian refugees across the Middle East.

Nauert said the USA would "intensify dialogue with the United Nations, host governments, and worldwide stakeholders about new models and new approaches" to help alleviate any impact on Palestinian children. However, a State Department spokesperson told FP that "US policy regarding UNRWA has been under frequent evaluation and internal discussion".

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