The Foreign Minister fears the consequences of the United States freezing half a billion in aid money to the UN Relief Fund for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).
‘I am worried about the potential humanitarian consequences of the USA holding back $65 million. It puts UNRWA in a depressed economic situation’, said Søreide to NTB news.
She warned that Americans could cut all support to the UN organisation, in addition to bilateral assistance to the Palestinians.
‘$60 million is now paid, and has been channeled to health and education.
We will follow further development closely,’ she said.
This week, it became apparent that the United States will retain more than half of this year’s first contribution to UNRWA, as many millions of Palestinians rely on help in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.
It is about $65 million of a total contribution of $125 million. The United States has been the largest contributor to the Palestinians since 1949, but UNRWA now has to be told that further assistance requires major changes in the UN body.
Israel has long demanded closure of UNRWA, which operates schools and health clinics, and assists refugees with food and a roof over their heads.
‘UNRWA is an organisation that enhances the problem of Palestinian refugees,’ said Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, recently.
Norway, which has led the donor group for Palestine for the past 25 years, has warned the United States against cutting aid. Søreide said she has taken up UNRWA’s situation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Nethanyahu, and US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who she met during a visit to Washington last week.
‘In these talks, I emphasised that UNRWA plays a very important role in ensuring that Palestinian refugees receive basic services,’ said Søreide. She believes that it may have negative consequences if the organisation is unable to provide basic services due to a critical financial situation.
Norway will contribute NOK 125 million in core support to UNRWA in 2018, in addition to humanitarian contributions and project support.
© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today