By Hajer M'tiri
PARIS (AA) – France on Monday condemned a U.S. decision to cut all of its funding for the UN Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA.
The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Paris "deeply regrets" the US move and reiterated its commitment to UNRWA, "whose services to the more than 5 million Palestinian refugees are essential for local and regional stability."
"France recalls that the issue of Palestinian refugees and their right of return is a final status and can only be determined in the context of negotiations between the parties," read the statement.
It said, "It is essential that the international community remains mobilized to enable UNRWA to carry out its missions in a sustainable manner and to pursue its reforms."
"France has increased its contribution this year and is studying new possibilities of financial support, in particular for actions in favor of education," it added.
On Friday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Washington "will no longer commit further funding" to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
The U.S. was by far UNRWA's largest funder, giving $350 million annually, or about one-quarter of the agency's budget.
Established in 1949, UNRWA provides critical aid to more than 5 million Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.