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Trump leaning towards major cut in UNRWA funding: report

Palestinian children play outside tents set up by UNRWA in Gaza [Abed Rahim Khatib/Apaimages]
Palestinian children play outside tents set up by UNRWA in Gaza [Abed Rahim Khatib/Apaimages]

The Trump administration is preparing to withhold tens of millions of dollars from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Washington will cut “the year’s first contribution by more than half or perhaps entirely, and making additional donations contingent on major changes to the organisation”, according to a report by AP citing unnamed US officials.

While President Donald Trump has not apparently made a final decision yet, the AP story says that the US “appears more likely to send only $60 million of the planned $125 million first instalment.”

“Future contributions would require the agency, facing heavy Israeli criticism, to demonstrate significant changes in operations,” officials added, saying “that one suggestion under consideration would require the Palestinians to first re-enter peace talks with Israel.”

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The administration could announce its decision as early tomorrow, the officials said. The State Department said yesterday “the decision is under review. There are still deliberations taking place.”

According to AP, “the plan to withhold some of the money is backed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary James Mattis, who offered it as a compromise to demands for more drastic measures by UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.”

The report continued: “Haley wants a complete cutoff in US money until the Palestinians resume peace talks with Israel that have been frozen for years.”

“But Tillerson, Mattis and others say ending all assistance would exacerbate instability in the Mideast, notably in Jordan, a host to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and a crucial US strategic partner.”

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