USA withholds $65 mn from Palestinian aid programs: State Dept

USA withholds $65 mn from Palestinian aid programs: State Dept

But the $60 million that was provided can't be used for any other goal.

"At stake is the dignity and human security of millions of Palestine refugees in need of emergency food assistance and other support", UNRWA commissioner general Pierre Krahenbuhl said in a statement yesterday.

The United States held back $65 million that had been destined for the United Nations relief agency for Palestinians on Tuesday, two weeks after President Donald Trump threatened future payments. While Abbas was in Cairo today for a summit on Jerusalem with Arab League officials, the Secretary-General, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, said the U.S.'s "decision does not come apart from recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and [Israeli] settlement building", reported Anadolu Agency. No matter the USA bilateral relationship with the Palestinian Authority, UNRWA should not be a bargaining chip. "When we say that we're basically looking at the fact that you've got, basically they're considering Palestinian as a refugee".

Soon after the USA announcement, UNRWA launched the fundraiser for what it described as the "most dramatic financial crisis" since its inception, The Times of Israel reported.

Washington is the largest single contributor to UNRWA's finances and past year donated more than $364m to fund humanitarian projects to approximately 5.2 million registered Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.

On Monday, the PLO central council condemned the Trump administration for threats to cut UNRWA funding, saying that Washington is trying to absolve itself of responsibility for the Palestinian refugee crisis that it helped create in 1948.

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Two German archaeologists were seized at gunpoint a year ago less than 100 kilometres northeast of Abuja and later freed unharmed. Global Affairs Canada spokesman John Babcock said Canadian officials were aware that two citizens were reportedly abducted.

But in early January, about two weeks after the United Nations vote, Trump tweeted that, "we pay the Palestinians HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect". She added that the $60 million that was transferred to the agency was sent "to ensure that teachers, and also health care providers can be paid their salaries". The money, which is primarily earmarked for salaries for teachers and health workers, can not be used to cover the $45 million food bill. "Living conditions in Gaza, Syria, the West bank and elsewhere in the region are particularly tough", De Croo said in the statement. None of the money can be used to pay for programs in Lebanon and Syria.

Trump said in a Twitter post on January 2 that the United States gives the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars a year, "but get no appreciation or respect". The US State Department justified this measure saying that the agency needed to make reforms.

"This is not aimed at punishing anyone", spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters. The letter also makes clear that additional U.S. donations will be contingent on major changes by UNRWA, which has been heavily criticised by Israel.

Nauert said concerns about regional stability were reflected in the decision to cut only a portion of the funding and not "zero" out the budget.

"We believe that the methods of extortion and pressure of the U.S. Administration on the United Nations, especially with regard to programs that do not suit Israel and rightwing extremists, are unacceptable to the global community and UN member states".

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the move had nothing to do with "punishing" the Palestinians for their refusal to enter into negotiations with Israel, or their decision to push for a United Nations vote that resulted in overwhelming worldwide condemnation of the Trump administration's decision to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

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