Countries pledge $110 million for UN Palestinian agency

Countries pledge $110 million for UN Palestinian agency

More than $110 million was raised Tuesday at a pledgingconference to support the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA, which hasbeen struggling since the United States slashed funding.

UNRWA chief Pierre Kraehenbuehl said the funding would allowthe agency, which provides education and health services to Palestinians, tocover costs for the coming months and avoid a budget crisis.

Around 35 countries took part in the conference, mostlyEuropean and Arab nations, with the biggest contributions coming from the EU,Germany and Britain.

The conference was held on the same day as President DonaldTrump's administration unveiled the economic component of a long-awaited MiddleEast peace plan, at a workshop in Bahrain boycotted by the PalestinianAuthority.

The US plan dangles the prospect of $50 billion ofinvestment in the Palestinian territories and neighboring Arab countries over10 years.

Last year, the Trump administration cut all funding toUNRWA, arguing that it was flawed as Washington pressed ahead with work onproposals for an Israeli-Palestinian solution.

US Middle East advisor Jason Greenblatt in May told theSecurity Council that the agency should be dismantled and its services handedover to countries hosting the Palestinian refugees and NGOs.

Kraehenbuehl welcomed the pledge of $110 million, saying itwas an "important amount" but said UNRWA would be seeking morefunding to cover its annual budget of USD 1.2 billion in September.

"We hope this allows us to bridge a lot of the needsthat we have in the next three to four months," he told reporters.

There were no announcements of new contributions from Gulfcountries, but the UNRWA chief stressed there were strong expressions ofsupport for the agency's work.

Last year, UNRWA relied on extra money from member statesand internal savings to cover a $446 million budgetary hole. This year itunveiled a budget of $1.2 billion, unchanged from 2018.

Founded in 1949, UNRWA runs schools and provides health carefor some five million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the WestBank, and the Gaza Strip.

Israel and the United States do not like the fact thatPalestinian refugees can pass on refugee status to their children and want toreduce the number of people receiving aid from UNRWA. The Palestinians say thisviolates their rights.

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