Sweden warns against cutting US aid to Palestinian refugee agency
A Palestinian man near the UNRWA relief and social program office in Gaza City on January 8, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)
UNITED NATIONS â" Sweden, a big donor country that has recognized a Palestinian state, warned Tuesday that any US decision to withdraw funds to the UN agency for Palestinians would be destabilizing for the Middle East.
Swedenâs UN Ambassador Olof Skoog said he had raised his concerns with US Ambassador Nikki Haley following reports that the US administration had withheld $125 million in funds due on January 1 for the United Nationsâ refugee agency for Palestinians, known as UNRWA.
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âMy concern is that as we talk about regional stability, withdrawing funding for UNRWA would be very negative, both in terms of humanitarian needs of over five million people but also of course it would be destabilizing for the region,â Skoog told reporters at UN headquarters.Swedish Ambassador to the UN Olof Skoog (Screen capture: YouTube)
The Swedish ambassador said he did not rule out raising the issue at the Security Council, which is scheduled to hold its regular meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on January 25.
US President Donald Trump earlier this month th reatened to cut US aid to the Palestinians, saying on Twitter that Washington gets âno appreciation or respectâ from the Palestinians.
âWe pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect,â Trump tweeted on January 2.
âWith the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?â
In Washington, a senior State Department official said Monday that âcontrary to reports that we have halted funding to UNRWA, the decision is under review.â
âThere are still deliberations taking place, and we have missed no deadline,â said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Sweden was the first EU country to recognize a Palestinian state in 2014 and is among the top 10 donors to UNRWA along with the United States, the European Union, Saudi Arabia, Germany and Britain.Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 15, 2016. (Flash90)
US Vice President Mike Pence will travel to the Middle East next week, with stops scheduled in Egypt, Jordan and Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he would like to see UNRWA shut down but called for the US to withdraw its support for the agency gradually.
Netanyahuâs comments at the weekly cabinet meeting confirmed earlier reports that Israel was cautiously supporting the anticipated US funding cut, but is aiming to minimize possible harm to the Palestinians and prevent a serious humanitarian crisis from developing as a result, especially in the Gaza Strip.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.read more:
- Israel & the Region
- United Nations
- UNRWA United Nations Relief and Works Agency