PA official: Canceling aid to UNRWA threatens peace

PA envoy to Washington warns against canceling aid to UNRWA, claims doing so threatens the prospects of peace.

Ben Ariel, Canada ,

\UNRWA facilities in southern Gaza
\UNRWA facilities in southern Gaza
Flash 90

The Palestinian Authority (PA) envoy to Washington, Husam Zomlot, warned the U.S. on Friday against canceling aid to UNRWA, the United Nations agency serving “Palestinian refugees”, claiming that doing so would threaten the prospects of peace.

Zomlot said that by cutting its aid, the U.S. was "reneging on its international commitment and responsibility."

"By endorsing the most extreme Israeli narrative on all issues including the rights of more than five million Palestinian refugees, the U.S. administration has lost its status as peacemaker and is damaging not only an already volatile situation but the prospects for future peace," Zomlot told AFP.

His comments came as the State Department ended days of speculation by officially announcing that the United States is cutting its funding to UNRWA.

“The Administration has carefully reviewed the issue and determined that the United States will not make additional contributions to UNRWA," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

Zomlot’s comments also followed a report in The Washington Post earlier on Friday which said that, in addition to cutting the funding to UNRWA, President Donald Trump will also take the Palestinian Authority's insistence on the "Right of Return" for Arabs off the negotiating table and insist the organization slash the number of Arabs recognized as refugees.

"It's not up to the U.S. administration to define the status of Palestinian refugees," Zomlot said.

Friday’s announcement by the State Department made no mention of any plans regarding the “Right of Return” issue and taking it off the table.

The United States announced in January it would cut some of its funding to UNRWA, citing a need to undertake a fundamental re-examination of the organization, both in the way it operates and the way it is funded.

The organization has since received pledges of $100 million in additional funding from Qatar, Canada, Switzerland, Turkey, New Zealand, Norway, Korea, Mexico, Slovakia, India and France as a means of making up for the aid that was cut by Washington.

UNRWA recently said it had managed to pay salaries and provide some services, but also said there was still a large budget deficit of $256 million.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, earlier this week urged Middle Eastern nations to increase aid to UNRWA and added that Washington would only resume its aid to the UN agency if it undergoes reforms.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)