US withholds more than $200 million from UN relief agency for Palestinians

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US President Donald Trump has ordered more than $200m in economic aid which was to be allocated to Gaza and the West Bank be redirected elsewhere.

BBC reports that a State Department official said the decision was made after a review “to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with US national interests”. It has already withheld $65m from the UN relief agency for the Palestinians. Relations between the Palestinians and the US have been difficult since Mr Trump took power.

They hit a low point after the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017. As a result, the Palestinians said the US was unable to continue its mediation role in the peace process and suspended contact.

Al Jazeera reports that a senior US official said on Friday that President Donald Trump had ordered the State Department to “redirect” the funding for programmes in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip to unspecified “high-priority projects elsewhere”.

The official added that the decision took into account “the challenges the international community faces in providing assistance in Gaza, where Hamas control endangers the lives of Gaza’s citizens and degrades an already dire humanitarian and economic situation”.

The Times of Israel reports  that top Palestinian officials accused the United States of engaging in “blackmail” following the State Department’s announcement Friday it would cut $200 million in aid to the Palestinians.

“This administration is dismantling decades of US vision and engagement in Palestine,” Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s envoy to the US, said in a statement.

He charged that following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and decision to freeze funding for the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, the decision was “another confirmation of abandoning the two-state solution and fully embracing Netanyahu’s anti-peace agenda.”

The move by the State Department was the ostensible result a review of US assistance to the Palestinian Authority that Trump ordered in January, following Palestinians’ boycott of the administration over the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, as well as the decision to move the US embassy there.

 

 

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