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UN chief urges world not to abandon UNRWA

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres talks at a press conference in Beit Lahia, Gaza on 30 August 2017 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]

The world “must not abandon” the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees as it grapples with a major blow to its funding stream, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Monday, Anadolu reports.

“We must do everything possible to ensure that food continues to arrive, that schools remain open and that people do not lose hope,” Guterres said at a pledging conference for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

“Across the region, millions of Palestine refugees are counting on us to relieve their suffering and to help them to build a better future. They are counting on us for action now. I urge all of you to join together to close UNRWA’s funding gap,” Guterres added.

UNRWA provides critical aid to Palestinian refugees who have been displaced by successive wars and are now residing in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Earlier this year, the US suspended over half of its funding for the agency, withholding $65 million of its $125 million in annual funds after Palestinians rejected a US role in any peace talks in retaliation for US President Donald Trump’s unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The move drew widespread international condemnation as it undermines long-held understandings on the future of the contested city, the east of which is sought by Palestinians as the capital of their future state.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and point person for the Middle East, told Palestinian newspaper al-Quds that the Trump administration is “almost done” with its peace plan.

It is unclear how much money was promised during Monday’s pledging conference, but the agency’s commissioner-general, Pierre Krahenbuhl, was seeking $250 million in aid amid a funding shortage that threatens to halt school openings in September.

READ: Hamas calls on UN to approve UNRWA budget

“UNRWA’s vital mission requires a stronger commitment and contribution from the international community,” Turkey’s UN ambassador, Feridun Sinirlioglu, told the pledging conference.

“We should put UNRWA on a path towards sufficient, predictable and sustained financing to enable the agency to duly fulfill its mandate. UNRWA is and will continue to be vital not only for the Palestine refugees in its five fields of operation, but also for the region and for the world.”

“Turkey is and will remain a strong advocate,” he added.

Turkey has already advanced and transferred its annual $1.5 million contribution to the agency as well as $10 million in additional funding. It further granted $1.2 million to the World Health Organization for the treatment of Palestinians injured by Israeli forces and increased its annual flour contribution to 26,000 tons.

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