Sci-tech

Belgium pledges $23 million to UN Palestinian agency after US aid cut

Belgium pledges $23 million to UN Palestinian agency after US aid cut

"The global community, including the USA, should stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, they have a responsibility to protect the rights of the Palestinian refugees and provide them with essential services".

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said that the US should cut its funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) until the organization reforms.

UNRWA provides services to 5.3 million Palestinian refugees in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

But State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert confirmed on Tuesday that the u.s. government had written to UNRWA to inform it that it was withholding $65m out of a total of $120m in funding pledged as a "first tranche" in 2018.

The State Department said that the remaining $60 million would still be released to the agency to prevent it from running out of money and closing down.

Nauert said that a "potential second tranche" in 2018 was also being held. The letter also makes clear that additional USA donations will be contingent on major changes by UNRWA, which has been heavily criticised by Israel.

"Russia is not helping us at all with North Korea", Trump said during the interview.

Belgium is together with other EU member states and the European Commission by far UNRWA's largest donor.

Nauert said other countries should shoulder more of the costs for UNRWA.

"The decision to withhold more than half of a tranche of funding for an agency supporting Palestinian refugees is deplorable".

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The services UNRWA provides "are of extreme importance, not only for the well-being of this population, and there is a serious humanitarian concern here", he said.

In mid-December, the State Department assured the United Nations it would contribute $45 million to purchase emergency food rations and other critical supplies for 1 million needy Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "At stake is the access of 525,000 boys and girls in 700 UNRWA schools, and their future".

"The reduced contribution also impacts regional security at a time when the Middle East faces multiple risks and threats, notably that of further radicalisation", he said. But after a highly critical January 2 tweet from Trump on aid to the Palestinians, the State Department opted to wait for a formal policy decision before sending its first installment.

"The American administration reaffirms its complicity with the Israeli occupation and preempts the issues of a permanent solution by removing the refugee issue from the table and targeting innocent people, specifically this vulnerable segment of the Palestinian people", she added.

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

De Croo said he was responding to the global fundraising appeal in hopes of making up for funding cuts announced by the United States.

UNRWA was created almost 70 years ago, after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, to assist more than 700,000 displaced Palestinians. Instead, Palestinians registered with UNRWA receive United Nations services, primarily education, healthcare, and food aid.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which aids displaced people across the world, warned that the United States move would have "devastating consequences" on hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who depend on UNRWA services to survive.

But the call came after a behind-the-scenes tussle between hawks who want to cut all aid to Palestinians and officials concerned about the humanitarian and diplomatic fallout.


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