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Egypt: Arab League hits out at Washington over cuts to UNRWA funding

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Abou El Gheit said the US’s goal of cutting funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was to “question the legitimacy” of the agency, during an Arab league meeting in Cairo on Tuesday.

“There is an unprecedented American desire to free the Palestinian cause from its tragic, legal, political and humanitarian content,” El Gheit said.

“The decision by a UN member state to contribute to UNRWA or not is a sovereign decision. But I say here with great determination to you that it will not alter in any way the energy and determination with which UNRWA will serve Palestinian refugees and implement the mandate we were given,” UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbuhl said while speaking during the meeting.

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir called on “a pragmatic plan of action to find long-term solutions in providing support to Palestinian refugees” during an intra-session Arab League Foreign Ministers talk.

On August 31 the US State Department announced that it had determined the UNRWA to be “irredeemably flawed” and would be withdrawing all funding.

The US contributed US $355 million (€305 million) to UNRWA in 2016 and released US $60 million (€43 million) of their allocated funding earlier this year, before announcing the cuts.

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SOT, Ahmed Abou El Gheit, Arab League Secretary-General (Arabic): “There is an unprecedented American desire to free the Palestinian cause from its tragic, legal, political and humanitarian content.”

SOT, Ahmed Abou El Gheit, Arab League Secretary-General (Arabic): “The American goal is very clear and goes beyond the issue of financial contribution to the question of the legitimacy of UNRWA itself, which was established according to a UN resolution and there are attempts to undermine its credibility in order to question the issue of refugees in general.”

SOT, Ahmed Ibrahim Bakr, Palestinian refugee student (Arabic): “I want to thank you with all my heart for your support, but today I invite you to help us keep our schools open.”

SOT, Pierre Krahenbuhl, UNRWA Commissioner General: “Ultimately the decision by a UN member state to contribute to UNRWA or not is a sovereign decision. But I say here with great determination to you that it will not alter in any way the energy and determination with which UNRWA will serve Palestinian refugees and implement the mandate we were given.”

SOT, Pierre Krahenbuhl, UNRWA Commissioner General: “UNRWA still needs 186 million US dollars to ensure that the schools and clinics stay open and emergency services remain operational. This meeting here today for UNRWA is truly a historic moment and a special event.”

SOT, Riyad al-Maliki, Foreign Minister of Palestine (Arabic): “The State of Palestine, with its leadership and people, will find itself compelled to make difficult decisions in the face of this international negligence and the inaction in seriously dealing with the affairs of the Palestinian people. We hope that these latest crazy steps by the American administration will be a dangerous signal to strike the conscience of the world to move before it is too late.”

SOT, Adel al-Jubeir, Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia (Arabic): “We need a pragmatic plan of action to find long-term solutions in providing support to Palestinian refugees to let us ensure that there is no shortage of support and that support is focused and effective.”

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