Saudi Arabia yesterday pledged $50 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which was recently hit by the withdrawal of the United States funding.
The announcement was made by the director of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief), Abdullah Al-Rabeea, at a press conference held in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, which was attended by the UNRWA Commissioner-General, Pierre Krahenbuhl.
Earlier this year, the US President Donald Trump cut nearly $300 million in aid for Palestinians, warning that he “would cut his government’s funding to UNRWA.” The US, which had been by far the biggest contributor to UNRWA, provided only $60 million to the UN organisation in 2018, compared to $370 million last year.
During the conference, Krahenbuhl told reporters that UNRWA “had succeeded in containing its spending despite the US decision.”
In Jordan last week, he said that the agency was able to reduce its annual budget deficit from $446 million to just $21 million following a number of funding pledges from Europe and other Gulf Arab countries. UNRWA’s 2018 budget was reported to have originally amounted to $1.2 billion.
Palestinians say that the so-called “right of return,” stipulated in the UN General Assembly’s resolution 194, applies to all Palestinians who were forced to leave their homeland. Israel, backed by the US, has accused the UN of “perpetuating a conflict in the Middle East by maintaining the idea of allowing Palestinians return to their homes in what is now part of the Israeli state.”
The US funding decision was the latest in a series of controversial moves that have evoked international dismay. In December 2017, Trump declared the occupied city of Jerusalem as the new Israeli capital and said that he would move the US embassy to the city.