CAIRO (Reuters) – Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said on Tuesday U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to halt funding to U.N. Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA was an attack on international law.
FILE PHOTO: A Palestinian man carries a bag of flour inside an aid distribution center run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
The U.S. decision has left UNRWA seeking a shortfall of $200 million from Gulf and European states and has further strained tensions between the Trump administration and Palestinian leadership.
Ties with Washington have sharply deteriorated since Trump last year decided to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reversing decades of U.S. policy and prompting Arab warnings that it could fuel crises in the region. The international community, with exceptions including Israel, criticized the move.
“The U.S. administration has begun to attack the rights of the Palestinian people and international law,” Maliki said at a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo convened to discuss the issue.
Internationally-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have stalled since 2014 and Israeli settlements in the occupied territories have steadily expanded.
Palestinian leaders say their political situation has deteriorated since Trump took office in 2017 as Washington has pursued policies that favor the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is a close U.S. ally.
Netanyahu has broadly welcomed Trump’s support.
Washington said last month it halted all funding to UNRWA. Trump last week ordered that $25 million earmarked for the care of Palestinians in East Jerusalem hospitals be directed elsewhere as part of a review of aid.
The United States said UNRWA’s the business model and fiscal practices made it an “irredeemably flawed operation.”
Jordan, a key U.S. ally, said it would only fuel radicalism and harm prospects for Middle East peace.
Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said at the Arab League that Jordan would hold a meeting “in cooperation with Sweden, Germany, Japan, the European Union and Turkey” on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meet later this month “in an effort to get more aid.” He did not give more details.
Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg