By Ali Abo Rezeg
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) on Wednesday decried a U.S. move to cut funds for the agency, warning the move would impact regional security.
On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department said it was withholding $65 million in aid to Palestine “for future consideration.”
“The reduced contribution impacts regional security at a time when the Middle East faces multiple risks and threats, notably that of further radicalization,” UNRWA commissioner-general Pierre Krahenbuhl said in a statement.
He warned that the U.S. move “threatens one of the most successful and innovative human development endeavors in the Middle-East.”
Krahenbuhl said the U.S. cuts would make many of the services offered by UNRWA to Palestinian refugees “at stake”.
“At stake is the access of 525,000 boys and girls in 700 UNRWA schools, and their future. At stake is the dignity and human security of millions of Palestine refugees, in need of emergency food assistance … at stake is the access of refugees to primary health care,” he said.
UNRWA provides services to 5.3 million Palestinian refugees in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
Krahenbuhl appealed to the international community to take a “stand” against the backdrop of the U.S. move.
The total U.S. contribution to UNRWA in 2017 was above $350 million.
On Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Washington will still transfer $60 million of what was originally a $125 million tranche of funding to UNRWA.
She said the suspension had no relation to Jerusalem, a contentious issue since early last month when the U.S. recognized the city as Israel’s capital.
U.S. President Donald Trump previously threatened to cut aid to the Palestinians, including to the UNRWA, in response to Palestinian fury over his policy shift on the holy city.