Trump administration cuts US$300-million from funding to Palestinian refugees

Trump Admin Ending UN Aid To Palestinian Refugees

Jordan said on Thursday it would lead a campaign to raise funds for the UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees, to help it survive after the United States cut its funding.

This latest report follows last week's announcement by the US State Department that it will cut more than $200 million in bilateral aid to the Palestinian Authority.

The U.S. supplies almost 30 per cent of the total budget of the UN Relief and Works Agency, which provides health care, education and social services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

UNRWA has faced a cash crisis since the United States, long its biggest donor, earlier this year slashed funding, saying the agency needed to make unspecified reforms and calling on the Palestinians to renew peace talks with Israel.

The US, which roughly provided one-third of the UNRWA's budget, suspended $65 million of the $125 million in aid it planned to contribute to the program back in January.

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Palestinian officials have sharply criticised a USA decision to halt funding to the United Nations' agency assisting Palestine refugees across the Middle East, calling it a "flagrant assault" against Palestinian people. A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the decision as "a flagrant assault against the Palestinian people and a defiance of United Nations resolutions".

The administration official told CNN the decision was made at a meeting between Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and a White House senior adviser, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, but that US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley had also been pushing for the move. Most are descendants of people who were pushed out of Israel in the run-up to its creation, and they are considered refugees by the U.N. But the Trump administration wants to vastly reduce the number of people who are granted that status, from 5 million to about 500,000. The Palestinian leadership has angered the White House by boycotting its peace efforts since President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moved the embassy there in a reversal of decades of USA policy.

Earlier on Friday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Germany would increase its contributions to the agency because its funding crisis was fuelling uncertainty.

Nauert said the United States would intensify talks with the United Nations, the region's governments and global stakeholders that could involve bilateral US assistance for Palestinian children. "It is the failure of the political parties to resolve the refugee situation which perpetuates the continued existence of UNRWA".

By the end of September, "UNRWA won't have a penny", the agency's spokesman Chris Gunness warned Wednesday.

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