UN agency pushes back against US call to terminate UNRWA

UNRWA, UN agency charged with aiding Palestinian refugees and their descendants, rejects call by Trump envoy Jason Greenblatt to end agency.

Arutz Sheva Staff, AFP,

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl (r) in Rafah, Gaza Strip
UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl (r) in Rafah, Gaza Strip
Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90

The head of the United Nations organization for Palestinian refugees on Thursday rejected a US call to dismantle the agency, saying it cannot be blamed for stalled peace efforts.

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s (UNRWA) commissioner general Pierre Krahenbuhl rebuffed the criticism from US envoy Jason Greenblatt during a visit to the Gaza Strip.

"I unreservedly reject the accompanying narrative that suggests that somehow UNRWA is to blame for the continuation of the refugee-hood of Palestine refugees, of their growing numbers and their growing needs," he said in response to a question about Greenblatt's comments.

"The fact that UNRWA still exists today is an illustration of the failure of the parties and the international community to resolve the issue politically -- and one cannot deflect the attention onto a humanitarian organization," he told a press conference in Gaza City.

The United States last year cut off its roughly $300 million annual donation to UNRWA, and administration officials now argue the agency has run its course.

Speaking to the UN Security Council on Wednesday, Greenblatt said the "UNRWA model has failed the Palestinian people."

Greenblatt said it was time to hand over services assured by the UN agency to and NGOs and the countries hosting Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendants.

He said the US had given $6 billion in aid to UNRWA since it was founded in 1949 "and yet year after year UNRWA funding fell short."

"We need to be honest about the situation. UNRWA is a bandaid and the Palestinians who use its services deserve better," said Greenblatt.

The US and Israel say the agency perpetuates the Israeli-Arab conflict, in particular by classifying refugees' descendants as refugees too.

UNRWA argues it is simply providing services until a political solution is found.

The US is due to hold an economic conference in Bahrain on June 25-26 as the first part of the administration's long-delayed Israeli-Arab peace plan, though the Palestinians will not attend, accusing the United States of seeking to eliminate their cause.

UNRWA hosts a conference on June 25 at which international donors are expected to pledge financial support.




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