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UN agency aiding Palestinians rejects US bid to strip it of mandate

May 23, 2019 at 6:15 pm

Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl at a press conference outside UNRWA’s office in Gaza on 23 May 2019 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

The head of the United Nations agency that has supported Palestinian refugees for seven decades hit back on Thursday at a US proposal to have host countries take over the services it provides across the Middle East, Reuters reports.

The suggestion, from US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt at a UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday, that UNRWA should be effectively dismantled was the latest U.S. attack on an agency that began operations in 1950.

Formerly UNRWA’s largest donor, the United States halted its funding to the agency in 2018, deeming its fiscal practices “irredeemably flawed” and stoking tensions between the Palestinians and US President Donald Trump’s administration.

READ: The health and dignity of Palestine refugees remain at risk, says UNRWA

“We need to engage with host governments to start a conversation about planning the transition of UNRWA services to host governments, or to other international or local non-governmental organizations, as appropriate,” Greenblatt said after the Security Council was briefed by UNRWA chief Pierre Krahenbuhl.

Asked at a Gaza news conference on Thursday about Greenblatt’s remarks, Krahenbuhl said UNRWA’s mandate was a matter for the entire UN General Assembly to consider, not by “one or two individual member states”.

“Therefore, Palestinian refugees should remember that the mandate is protected by the General Assembly, and of course we will engage with member states to ensure what we hope is a safe renewal of that mandate,” Krahenbuhl said.