Palestinian leader says USA out of peace talks until Jerusalem policy reversed

Sunday, 14 Jan, 2018

The US administration's threat to cut its funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees would have disastrous consequences if carried out, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) warned on Wednesday.

The agency plays a significant role in supporting Palestinian refugees with access to education, healthcare, social services and employment in the occupied Palestinian territories and in neighbouring states.

"UNRWA exclusively takes its mandate from the UN General Assembly and will continue working under it until solving Palestinian refugees' issue through all parties in a just and lasting way", Abu Hasna added.

"My concern is that as we talk about regional stability, withdrawing funding for UNRWA would be very negative, both in terms of humanitarian needs of over five million people but also of course it would be destabilizing for the region", Skoog told reporters at United Nations headquarters.

Sweden, a big donor country that has recognized a Palestinian state, warned Tuesday that any U.S. decision to withdraw funds to the United Nations agency for Palestinians would be destabilizing for the Middle East.

For his part, the director of the PLO's Department of Refugee Affairs, Ahmad Hanoun, revealed that contacts were underway to hold an urgent meeting of the UNRWA Advisory Committee to discuss the USA threats to stop its financial contributions to UNRWA in an attempt to force the Palestinian Authority to return to the negotiating table with Israel.

Last Tuesday, Trump, in a number of tweets, threatened to cut Washington's aid to Palestinians, alleging that the PA was no longer willing to engage in the so-called peace talks with Israel.

"They don't even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel".

Hanoun said in a radio interview on Monday that the UN Secretary-General would also be asked that the UN assumes responsibility for the financial deficit resulting from the United States decision, noting that there was a financial crisis in the agency before Trump's threat to stop United States financial contribution.

"UNRWA is an organisation that perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem", Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said while also lauding Trump at the beginning of his weekly cabinet meeting.

The foreign minister made his remarks as he met with UNRWA Commissioner-General, Pierre Krahenbuhl.