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UNRWA head says millions of Palestinian refugees ‘cannot be simply wished away’

The head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has warned that millions of Palestinian refugees “cannot simply be wished away,” hitting back at a controversial decision made by the United States to cut off its aid to the support agency.
UNRWA head says millions of Palestinian refugees ‘cannot be simply wished away’
AVA- “I express deep regret and disappointment at the nature of the US decision,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl said in an open letter to Palestinian refugees and the agency's staff in which he pledged its operations would continue.
“No matter how often attempts are made to minimize or de-legitimize the individual and collective experiences of Palestine refugees, the undeniable fact remains that they have rights under international law and represent a community of 5.4 million men, women and children who cannot simply be wished away,” he added.
Krahenbuhl’s comments came three days after the US State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, referred to the aid program as “irredeemably flawed,” adding that the US administration had “carefully reviewed” the issue and “will not make additional contributions to UNRWA.”
Hours after Nauert’s remarks, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas lambasted the decision as a “flagrant assault” against Palestinians.
Last month, the State Department also announced that Washington had canceled over $200 million in funds for the Palestinian Authority, leading Palestinian officials to denounce the move as “blackmail.”
The US, which roughly provided one-third of UNRWA’s budget, suspended $65 million of the $125 million in aid it planned to contribute to the program back in January. Krahenbuhl said some Persian Gulf states had injected funds but UNRWA still needed more than $200 million. It is, however, not yet clear which states have received the green light to partly compensate for the Agency’s budget deficit.
Washington's move against UNRWA forced Krahenbuhl to start a fundraising appeal, to which Belgium was the first to respond, offering a generous $23 million.
A few months later, Qatar, Canada, Switzerland, Turkey, New Zealand, Norway, Korea, Mexico, Slovakia, India and France also pledged $100 million in new financing to UNRWA after an emergency donor conference held in Rome back in March.
Monday 3 September 2018 23:54
Story Code: 169989 Copy text available
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