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PLO calls on UNRWA chief to retract recent statements on transferring some of agency’s services to other institutions

April 26, 2022 at 8:26 am

Commissioner General of the United Nations Palestine Refugee Agency (UNRWA) Philippe Lazzarini makes a speech as he holds a press conference following his visit in Gaza City, Gaza on 26 November 2020. [Ali Jadallah – Anadolu Agency]

The Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) has called on the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, to retract his recent positions regarding the possibility of transferring the agency’s services to other international institutions.

In a statement, the Executive Committee said it rejected efforts to find solutions to the Palestine question under the pretext of financial difficulties and defunding, with the aim of bringing about a change in the political and legal status of the Palestinian refugee, which UNRWA embodies.

The Executive Committee warned of the old-new suspicious plans and attempts aimed at liquidating UNRWA’s work, and the repercussions of succumbing to political and financial blackmail in order to be consistent with the Israeli occupation’s calls to liquidate the Agency and refer its services and tasks to the host countries and the High Commissioner for Refugees.

It called on the United Nations and donor countries to fulfil their financial obligations and to adopt a fixed budget for the Agency, similar to other United Nations institutions.

READ: Gaza factions accuse UNRWA of ‘procrastinating reconstruction file’

On Saturday, Lazzarini warned that UNRWA’s financial situation over the last ten years could lead to an interruption or end in the services it provides to five million Palestine refugees in the occupied territories, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

For years, Israel has been lobbying hard to have UNRWA closed down as it is the only UN agency to have a specific mandate to look after the basic needs of Palestinian refugees. If the agency no longer exists, argues Israel, then the refugee issue must no longer exist, and the legitimate right for Palestinian refugees to return to their land will be unnecessary. Israel has denied that right of return since the late 1940s, even though its own membership of the UN was made conditional upon Palestinian refugees being allowed to return to their homes and land.

UNRWA depends almost entirely on voluntary donations from UN member states, making it extremely vulnerable to pro-Israel lobby groups which are influential in various key capitals.