Decision To Suspend U.S. Support for UNRWA Not Taken Yet

AKEED, Aya Khawaldeh

There have been conflicting reports in Arabic and local media outlets on suspending U.S. support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in the wake of U.S. threats to do so to put pressure on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to return to the negotiations with Israel.

The Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED) has been following published reports on this issue. The reporting started after an announcement by Nikki Haley, U.S. permanent envoy to the United Nations, on the intention of U.S. President Donald Trump to stop the financing of programs to support Palestinian refugees until the Palestinians return to the negotiating table.

Many local media outlets ran the report under different headlines, such as:

Washington: We Will Stop Support for UNRWA

Trump Threatens To Stop Support for UNRWA if PA Does Not Return to Negotiations

Trump Threatens Palestinians To Stop UNRWA Support

This was followed by a number of press reports, citing Israel"s Channel 10, which quoted three U.S. officials as saying that "President Trump"s Administration informed the United Nations that it had frozen the amount of $125 million, which was scheduled to be paid on 1 January 2018." Many local media outlets republished the report, citing Channel 10 or Axios news website. Below are some examples:

Washington Freezes $125 Million for UNRWA

America Freezes $125 Million in Funding for UNRWA

Newspaper: America Freezes $125 Million in Funding for UNRWA

In a statement to AKEED today, 8 January 2018, Sami Mshasha, official spokesman for UNRWA, denied the decision to freeze support by the U.S. Administration to UNRWA. He said: "Based on lengthy discussions with the U.S. Administration, UNRWA has been informed that the decision to freeze the funds has not been taken yet. There is no need to prejudge matters."

Mshasha pointed out that "for 70 years, the United States has been the largest supporter of the United Nations budget, including the regular budget and the project and contingency budget. Therefore, stopping U.S. aid will have disastrous effects on the UNRWA, especially in the long run, in relation to its services to 5 million refugees and 30,000 employees, including 22,000 teachers who serve half a million students at 700 schools."

Besides, stopping U.S. support, according to Mshasha, will affect regional stability in all of UNRWA"s fields of operations. Recently, the United Nations General Assembly has supported the UNRWA missions and services in emergencies and human development and its role in security and peace.

Mshasha had earlier denied news about the freeze. The denial was carried by the Jordan News Agency, Petra, and a number of local media outlets.

Yasin Abu Awwad, director general of the Palestinian Affairs Department, confirmed to the Jordanian newspaper Al Ghad that Jordan was not officially informed about "freezing or suspending U.S. aid extended to the UNRWA," which is estimated at $370 million annually. The United States is the largest donor to the UNRWA.

Also, a U.S. official has denied to the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds taking any measures regarding freezing aid to the UNRWA.