Palestinian refugees' lives are better thanks to the UN agency to help Palestinians, said Riyad al-Maliki, Palestine's foreign minister, on Sunday.
Speaking at a UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) event hosted in Istanbul, Turkey's commercial capital, al-Maliki thanked Afghanistan for their $1 million donation for Palestinian refugees.
He also hailed the UNRWA's support, saying the agency provides for the basic needs of Palestinian refugees such as education and food.
"The UNWRA is successfully carrying out a very demanding task today. Great results have been achieved. The efforts made last year are very important," he said.
"Half a million children continued their education without interruption last year, thanks to the UNRWA. The lives of Palestinian refugees are better because of you," al-Maliki added.
He also thanked Turkey for hosting the event in Istanbul, saying that for decades Turkey has consistently supported the Palestinian cause.
"Turkey and Mr. [Foreign Minister Mevlut] Cavusoglu made great efforts to support the UNRWA. There are 5.6 million Palestinian refugees and they get aid thanks to you."
Last year, US President Donald Trump cut Washington's annual funding for the UNRWA. The U.S. had been the agency's largest contributor by far, providing it with $350 million each year – roughly a quarter of its overall budget.
The UNRWA was established by the UN General Assembly in 1949 with the stated aim of providing aid and protection to Palestinian refugees in its five areas of operations: Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.
'Defending Palestinians' freedoms'
Al-Maliki also said Palestinians have no choice but defend their freedom.
Ahead of the UNRWA event, speaking to Palestinian ambassadors to European countries, al-Maliki said holding the event in Istanbul shows Turkey's support for the Palestinian cause.
"We face great challenges and these challenges will continue in the future. However, we will continue to fight these challenges to protect our gains, rights, independence, sovereignty, and our future," he said.
AL-Maliki added that the US and the Trump administration have left Palestinians with no choice but to protect and defend their gains.
"In order to live in a fairer world, we have to fight for an independent Palestinian state whose capital city is Jerusalem," he added.
Also speaking at the event, Palestinian Ambassador to Turkey Faid Mustafa said countries who support an independent Palestinian are under a lot of pressure.
"Turkey is the biggest supporter of Palestinian diplomacy. President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and Foreign Minister Cavusoglu worked for our problems to be heard in the world and they are continuing to do so," he added.
In 2018, Trump sparked an international outcry by announcing plans to move the US Embassy to Israel to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel's capital.
Since the move last May, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah has rejected any mediating role by the U.S. in the moribund Middle East peace process.
International law continues to view East Jerusalem, along with the entire West Bank, as "occupied territory" and considers all Jewish settlement construction there to be illegal.