Arab FMs meet in Cairo to discuss UNRWA funding crisis

By Khaled Ibrahim

CAIRO (AA) – The Cairo-based Arab League on Tuesday met at the foreign minister-level to discuss means of countering a recent U.S. decision to cut funding to UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA.

In a joint statement, Arab FMs warned against U.S. policies that “undermine the agency’s mandate and reduce its services [provided to Palestinian refugees], which will only aggravate the situation in the Middle East”.

They also announced their collective intention “to take the necessary steps to ensure sustained financial support to allow the agency's continued operation”.

Speaking at the meeting, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki accused the U.S. of “undermining the rights of the Palestinian people — and international law — with a view to implementing the ‘Deal of the Century’.”

The “Deal of the Century” refers to a backchannel U.S. Middle East peace plan, details of which have yet to be made public.

“The U.S. administration is now targeting the Palestinians’ political representation by shutting the PLO’s Washington office,” al-Maliki said.

“It is also working to undermine the [Palestinian] refugees and their right to return [to historical Palestine] by draining funds from the UNRWA,” he added.

On August 31, Washington cut all its funding to UNRWA, to which the U.S. had been — by far — the largest contributor.

Established in 1949, UNRWA provides critical aid to Palestinian refugees in the blockaded Gaza Strip, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Later this month, donor countries plan to meet in New York to discuss the cash-strapped agency’s future.

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