Trump cuts funding for UN Palestinian refugee agency

A pupil stands at the entrance of a school run by United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees in Balata refugee camp east of the West Bank city of Nablus

The Trump administration announced on Friday it would cease all funding of an agency that provides services to more than 5 million Palestinian refugees.

Prior to the revelations regarding the Trump administrations imminent defunding of UNRWA, the US State Department announced it would "redirect" more than $200 million already appropriated for the Palestinians.

That's according to individuals familiar with a policy review into USA funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which provides aid to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Anonymous sources later told The Washington Post that if the United Nations wants USA funding for UNRWA, it must change the way the agency operates.

Under the Donald Trump administration, the USA government had previously slashed its budget to UNRWA operations in the occupied Palestinian territories from $365m to just $65m, resulting in work redundancies and a drop to part-time contracts for numerous agency's Palestinian employees and full-time staffers.

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President Trump has long called for other nations to step up and share the "burden of costs", and while efforts have been made to address the issue, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that "the overall worldwide response has not been sufficient". Most are descendants of people who fled Palestine in the 1948 war that led to the creation of the state of Israel.

Foreign Policy first reported the Trump administration's decision to end funding for the United Nations agency.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaks during a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov following their meeting in Moscow, May 10, 2018.

The shake-up is part of the Trump administration's bid to cut its spending overseas, and as the White House drafts its Middle East peace plan.

Were UNRWA to become defunct, it could cause an "uncontrollable chain reaction", the minister warned. The last peace talks collapsed in 2014, partly because of Israel´s opposition to an attempted unity pact between the Fatah and Hamas Palestinian factions and to Israeli settlement building on occupied land that Palestinians seek for a state, among other factors. However, a State Department spokesperson told FP that "US policy regarding UNRWA has been under frequent evaluation and internal discussion". "It is the failure of the political parties to resolve the refugee situation which perpetuates the continued existence of UNRWA".

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