Arab League condemns Washington, pledges to preserve UNRWA

Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit announced that “Arab countries would not accept the dissolution of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA.” The Arab League’s Secretary General claimed that while “the ultimate goal of U.S. policy is to undermine the legitimacy of UNRWA and the UN mandate granted to it, in order to settle the (Palestinian) refugee issue,” the Muslim world “will not allow the dismantling of the agency or replacing it with alternative entities,” a goal which Aboul Gheit claimed, is sought after by Israel and the United States. The statement by the Secretary General came during a meeting in Cairo last night with UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl, who presented the Arab League’s Chief with an overview of the organization’s crisis, following the United States’ decision to suspend its financial contribution to the agency – in light of UNRWA’s unwillingness to concede to Washington’s calls for reform. Rather than complying with U.S. demands, Krahenbuhl went on the defensive, urging the international community to close the organization’s financial shortfall, which amounts to 446 million dollars, equal to some 383 million euros. “This visit and this opportunity to address the League of Arab states is very important, at a critical time for UNRWA. We face an unprecedented financial crisis since the announcement by the United States in January that it would cut 300 million U.S. dollars from its contribution to UNRWA, and then the recent announcement by the United States on the 31st of August, that it will no longer support UNRWA financially. This is a critical time and we have decided that it’s essential for us to close the historic shortfall that we face, of 446 million U.S. dollars, by reaching out to many other countries, and among them member states of the League of Arab states,” said Krahenbuhl. The call for support came ahead of the Arab League’s 150th session that convened today in Egypt at the ministerial level, with an emphasis on supporting UNRWA. Among others, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar pledged to contribute to the UN Agency 50 million dollars each. While the UN official thanked the Gulf countries for their support, he emphasized that it was “not enough to sustain operations until the end of 2018.” “Where the money will come from, in light of the fact that Gulf countries have really mobilized very actively, and we have several in the Asian context, and also some of our European partners that have come forward. We are very much hoping in this phase that there are between some of the other Gulf countries and our European partners including the European Union who already are very generous donors, but who could consider providing additional support in this time of really existential crisis, that is the sum of key targets that we’re currently focusing on,” stated UNRWA Commissioner-General Krahenbuhl.