United States withdraws payments to UNRWA

The United States announced Friday the end of its payments to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from the United Nations.

A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced Washington’s decision as “an attack on the Palestinian people.”

Through several Twitter messages, a UNRWA spokesperson shared his surprise and disappointment.

In a statement, the US State Department said the agency’s economic model and budgeting practices had “irremediable flaws.”

“The administration has carefully considered the matter and decided that the United States would not make an additional contribution to UNRWA,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

She added that the “endless and exponential expansion of [the agency’s] beneficiary community was not sustainable.”

“We reject as strongly as possible criticisms that UNRWA schools, health centers and assistance programs have” irreparable flaws, “tweeted Chris Gunness, an UNRWA spokesperson.

UNRWA is assisting about five million Palestinian refugees. Most are the descendants of Palestinians who fled Palestine during the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

The United States paid $ 60 million to UNRWA last January, but suspended payment of another $ 65 million pending the review of the agency’s accounts.

“Unfair decisions”

“Such punishment will fail to change the fact that the United States no longer has a role in the region and is no longer part of the solution,” said Mahmoud Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah.

“Neither the United States nor anyone else will succeed in eradicating” UNRWA, he added.

The Palestinian administration denies the United States any role in the Middle East peace process since Donald Trump decided to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December.

Hamas, for its part, ruled that the decision by Donald Trump’s administration was a “serious escalation” against the Palestinian people.

“The US executive has become an enemy of our people and our nation and we will not bow to such unjust decisions,” said Sami Abu Zouhri, spokesman for the Palestinian Islamist movement.

Earlier in the day, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced that Berlin would increase its contributions to UNRWA, as the funding crisis fueled uncertainties.

“The loss of this organization could trigger an uncontrollable chain reaction,” he said.

According to Heather Nauert, the United States will intensify the discussions with the United Nations, the governments of the region and the international actors. They could relate to US bilateral aid for Palestinian children.

“We are very conscious and concerned about the impact on innocent Palestinians, especially schoolchildren, of the inability of UNRWA and the major regional and international donors to reform and restore the functioning of UNRWA,” he added. the spokeswoman for the State Department.

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