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July 3, 2018 11:17 am

Former US Envoys to UN Urge Pompeo to Restore Relief Agency Funding

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, May 21, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Jonathan Ernst.

Seven former US ambassadors to the United Nations under both Republican and Democratic presidents urged US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday to restore US funding for the UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees.

The United States, long the biggest donor to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), is providing just $60 million of a promised $365 million this year, agency head Pierre Kraehenbuehl told Reuters in April.

US President Donald Trump withheld the aid after questioning its value and saying Washington would only give aid if the Palestinians agreed to renew peace talks with Israel, while the US State Department said the agency needed to make unspecified reforms.

The United States is trying to kick-start stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, but has not yet revealed a peace plan.

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“This financial gap puts into question the ability of UNRWA to continue to deliver education and healthcare services to millions of people, and has national security ramifications for our closest allies, including Israel and Jordan,” the former US ambassadors to the United Nations wrote in the letter dated July 2.

“We urge you to restore US funding to help fill this gap,” they said in the letter, which was also sent to current US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and US National Security Adviser John Bolton.

The letter was signed by Samantha Power, Susan Rice, Bill Richardson and Madeleine Albright, who were appointed by Democratic presidents, and John Negroponte, Edward Perkins and Thomas Pickering, appointed by Republican presidents.

UNRWA was founded in 1949 to aid Palestinian refugees. It serves an estimated 5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. It runs some 700 schools, more than 140 health clinics and feeds hundreds of thousands of people.

“Failure to provide desperately needed resources comes with a price. More hardship for communities. More desperation for the region. More instability for our world,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last week, appealing for UNRWA funding.

“We must do everything possible to ensure that food continues to arrive, that schools remain open and that people do not lose hope,” he said.

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