US Withholding Added $45 Million in Palestinian Aid, Sources Say

Jan 19, 2018, 01:58
US Withholding Added $45 Million in Palestinian Aid, Sources Say

President Donald Trump questioned the value of sending such aid after Palestinian leaders said they would reject any us role in mediating peace talks with Israel after Trump announced plans to move the USA embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. UNRWA delivers vital humanitarian and development assistance, effecting significant accomplishments for millions of refugees within its five fields of work (the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria).

The Trump administration has cut tens of millions of dollars in money for Palestinian refugees, demanding that the United Nations agency responsible for the programs undertake a "fundamental re-examination", the State Department said.

Washington announced on Tuesday it would provide $60 million to the UNRWA while keeping back a further $65 million for now. The administration also made clear that future donations from the US would be contingent on major reforms that will be implemented by the UNRWA.

"We would like to see some reforms be made", said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, adding that changes are needed both to the way the agency operates and is funded. She said that while UNRWA reforms were a condition of releasing more money, the aid decision was "not aimed at punishing" anyone.

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But that money has now been frozen as part of US demands for changes in UNRWA.

When asked if the decision to cut the UNRWA funding was related to Trump's January 2 threat to end the aid, which he broadcasted via Twitter, Nauert refused to comment.

The U.S. provides roughly one-third of UNRWA's budget, and the agency has warned that it now faces the "most dramatic financial crisis" in its almost 70-year history.

"H$3 eeding Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's zero sum game to take Jerusalem off the table and now attempting to dismantle UNRWA, thinking that it would relinquish the rights of Palestinian refugees is a fallacy", he said.

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Responding for the first time to the harsh words spoken by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas earlier this week, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley explained Washington's decision to cut its aid to the UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees. Another official told reports that it was time for the other rich countries in the community of nations to step in and contribute to advancing the regional stability and security in the Middle East.

UNRWA commissioner-general Pierre Krähenbühl said in a statement that the reduced U.S. contribution "threatens one of the most successful and innovative human development endeavors in the Middle East".

Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon lauded the decision.

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