USA stops funding to Palestinian refugee agency due to 'irredeemably flawed operation'

Palestinians step up attacks on Trump administration

America's decision comes as President Donald Trump and his Middle East advisers, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, are set to come up with a peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah this week.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said the cuts could destabilise refugee camps not only in the West Bank and Gaza, but also in Jordan and Lebanon.

It now provides services to five million Palestinian refugees in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

The United States paid out $60 million to UNRWA in January, withholding another $65 million, from a promised $365 million for the year.

Speaking before the announcement on UNRWA, its representative in Washington, Elizabeth Campbell, said the withdrawal of USA funding would leave the agency facing a financial crisis, but noted that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and others have provided more than $200 million in new funding to help cover its budget this year.

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It attacked Mr Trump's decisions to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December and to move the United States embassy there from Tel Aviv in May.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently compared UNRWA to the UN's other refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which Netanyahu said, has "clear criteria for supporting genuine refugees, not fictitious refugees as happens today under UNRWA".

The controversial move led President Abbas to formally declare that the Palestinians would no longer accept the U.S. as a mediator to resolve the conflict because Washington was "completely biased" towards Tel Aviv.

"Such a punishment will not succeed to change the fact that the United States no longer has a role in the region and that it is not a part of the solution", he added.

He said "neither the United States nor else will be able to dissolve" UNRWA.

"We reject and condemn this American decision in its entirety", chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement, calling on all countries "to reject this decision and to provide all possible support" to UNRWA.

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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".

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.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told Reuters earlier this month that UNRWA's support would be needed as long as the parties failed to reach an agreement to end the crisis.

"The Secretary-General calls on other countries to help fill the remaining financial gap, so that UNRWA can continue to provide this vital assistance, as well as a sense of hope this vulnerable population", the United Nations statement said.

The UNRWA, he asserted, has a strong record of providing high-quality education, health and other essential services, often in extremely hard circumstances, to Palestine refugees who are in great need.

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