The Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA on Thursday (27 September) received pledges of $118 million (€101 million) from donor countries to help it overcome a crisis triggered by US funding cuts.
Kuwait and the European Union were among the biggest contributors along with Germany, Ireland and Norway, UNRWA chief Pierre Kraehenbuehl told a news conference. France said it would contribute next year.
The United States, which was by far the biggest contributor to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), announced in August that it would no longer fund the agency.
Kraehenbuehl said the new funds were “a significant step in the direction of overcoming UNRWA’s greatest and gravest financial crisis ever”, adding that the shortfall in the annual budget now stood at $68 million.
The administration of President Donald Trump has backed Israel in accusing UNRWA of perpetuating the Middle East conflict by maintaining the idea that millions of Palestinians are refugees with a right to return to homes in what is now Israel.
Created in 1949, the agency supplies aid to more than three million of the five million registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories.
Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, who co-hosted the meeting on UNRWA’s funding crisis on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, said discussions were under way on ensuring long-term financing for the agency.
Safadi said the international community had a “firm, unwavering” commitment to keep UNRWA alive and ensure it continues to provide health and education services to Palestinian refugees.
Aside from cutting funds to UNRWA, the Trump administration has also cut $200 million in bilateral aid to the Palestinians for projects in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
In his address to the General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump said the United States would only give foreign aid “to those who respect us and frankly are our friends.”
Abbas slams Trump
AFP) – Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas tore into the Trump administration Thursday, refusing to accept the United States as the sole mediator in the Middle East conflict, a day after Donald Trump promised a “very fair” peace plan.
The 82-year-old Palestinian Authority president used his address to the UN General Assembly to lambast the United States for closing the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moving its embassy and slashing Palestinian aid money.
Speaking a day after the US president said he favored a two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and vowed to unveil a new peace plan within months, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Trump for his “unwavering support”.
Abbas, however, said Trump had forfeited his right to be regarded as a neutral broker.
“We will also not accept sole American mediation in the peace process,” he said, accusing the former real estate tycoon of being “biased” towards Israel since taking office in January 2017.
“With all of these decisions, this administration has reneged on all previous US commitments, and even undermined the two-state solution,” Abbas told the world body in a nearly 40-minute speech.
“It’s really ironic that the American administration still talks about what they call the ‘deal of the century.'”
Trump pledged Wednesday to unveil a new peace plan by the end of the year, turning heads by supporting for the first time a two-state solution.
His son-in-law Jared Kushner is part of a team working on the plan, whose efforts have been met with derision by Palestinians who note that Israel has not been asked publicly for any concessions in return for the Jerusalem recognition.
When meeting Netanyahu on the sidelines of the General Assembly, Trump said he backed a two-state solution since “that’s what I think works best.”
His endorsement of the goal of a Palestinian state, long the focus of US peace efforts before he came into office, was decidedly lukewarm — and he slightly backtracked from it later.
“If the Israelis and the Palestinians want one state, that’s OK with me,” he said. “If they want two states, that’s OK with me. I’m happy if they’re happy.”
While Trump’s comments sparked concern among some Israeli right-wingers who hoped he would bury the idea of Palestinian statehood once and for all, Netanyahu had warm words for the president.
“I look forward to working with President Trump and his peace deal,” said Netanyahu in his speech in which he also praised Trump and the American ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, for their “unwavering support” at the world body.
Israel has long argued that the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, known as UNRWA, has perpetuated the Middle East conflict by maintaining the idea that millions of Palestinians are refugees with a right to return to homes in what is now Israel.