United States withholds $65 million in funds for UNWRA

US State Department confirms it will withhold more than half of funds for 2018; US calls on other countries to “burden share”; PLO: Act is Trump Administration complicity with the Israeli occupation.

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The United States confirmed it is withholding $65 million in aid to the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) for 2018.

The US State Department confirmed it would withhold half of its designated $125 million for 2018, calling on other nations to contribute more to the organization.

Spokeswoman for the State Department, Heather Nauert, addressed the development during a press briefing on Tuesday, confirming “We committed a voluntary contribution of $60 million for 2018 so far. This will be divided into tranches. Sixty million is what we have indicated as the first available tranche.” She explained that the funds would be used “to sustain schools and health services to ensure that teachers and also health care providers can be paid their salaries,” as well as in order to assure programs would not be shut down given lack of funds.

She confirmed that the $65 million “will be held for future consideration,” clarifying that “It’s money that’s being frozen at this time. It’s not being canceled. It’s just being held for future consideration.”

Nauert confirmed that the United States will be closely monitoring the UNRWA, emphasizing that the Trump Administration wants to “see some revisions made in how UNRWA operates,” and to assure “that the money is best spent and best spent so that people can get the services, whether it’s school or the health care services, that they need.”

She reiterated President Trump and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley that withholding of funds is “not aimed at punishing anyone. The United States Government and the Trump Administration believe that there should be more so-called burden sharing to go around.”

The United States gave the UNRWA a total of $368,429,712 in 2016, President Trump promising to cut American foreign aid to countries that “vote against us” at the UN General Assembly special emergency session in December.

He announced at the time “They [UN] take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars, and then they vote against us. Well, we’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care. People are tired of the United States- people that live here, our great citizens that love this country- they’re tired of this country being taken advantage of, and we’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer.”

A senior member of the PLO, Hanan Ashrawi, accused the Trump Administration of again proving its “complicity with the Israeli occupation,” accusing the US government of “targeting the most vulnerable segment of the Palestinian people and depriving refugees of the right to education, health, shelter and a dignified life.”

 

 

 

Photo: UN, Wikimedia, 2017