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Chief: UNRWA will exist until Palestine becomes a full-fledged state

April 29, 2024 at 10:51 am

Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) holds press conference in Jerusalem on October 27, 2023 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) will cease to exist only when Palestine becomes a full-fledged state, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini told Russia’s TASS news agency in an exclusive interview.

“My common sense would be to have a political solution. And if there is a political solution, UNRWA can phase out. That means the state takes over. And our raison d’etre is over,” he said.

Lazzarini explained that there are political motives behind efforts to dissolve the agency, which may undermine the establishment of a Palestinian State.

He pointed out that more than 80 per cent of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip believe that a two-state solution will be impossible if UNRWA is dissolved.

Lazzarini noted that he is not aware of Israel sending an official request to the UN regarding the dissolution of UNRWA, but he is aware of the Israeli government’s calls for this step and discussions about an alternative to the agency, stressing that UNRWA cannot be replaced by another entity at the present time.

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 “There is no other organisation that would assume our role and provide access to health care or education as we do,” he said, adding that such tasks can only be done by a government or administration with complete rights only.

“The only body that can assume these functions is the future State of Palestine when we find a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli issue,” he said.

Earlier, Lazzarini confirmed in a press conference that the main goal of dismantling UNRWA is to deprive the Palestinians of “refugee status”, which was clearly confirmed by Israel’s representative before the UN Security Council when he said that UNRWA is prolonging the refugee issue.

Israel has long lobbied to have UNRWA closed 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.

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