Trump to cut millions from UN agency for Palestinian refugees – officials

Trump to cut millions from UN agency for Palestinian refugees – officials
Mon Jan 15, 2018 10:00:42

US officials say only $60m of $125m for UN Relief and Works Agency likely as compromise between Mattis and Tillerson and hardline UN ambassador Haley

Guardian--  The Trump administration is preparing to withhold tens of millions of dollars from the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, cutting the year’s first contribution by more than half or perhaps entirely and making additional donations contingent on major changes to the organization, US officials said.

Donald Trump has not made a final decision but appears more likely to send only $60m of a planned $125m first installment to the UN Relief and Works Agency, said the officials, who were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.

The US is the agency’s largest donor, supplying nearly 30% of its total budget. The agency focuses on providing healthcare, education and social services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

The state department said on Sunday that “the decision is under review. There are still deliberations taking place.”

The White House did not immediately respond to questions about the matter.

The administration could announce its decision as early as Tuesday, the officials said. The plan to withhold some money is backed by secretary of state Rex Tillerson and defense secretary James Mattis, who offered it as a compromise to demands for more drastic measures by UN ambassador Nikki Haley, the officials said.

Haley wants a complete cutoff in US money until the Palestinians resume peace talks that have been frozen for years. But Tillerson, Mattis and others say ending all assistance would exacerbate instability in the Middle East, notably in Jordan, a host to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and a crucial US strategic partner.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians either fled or were forced from their homes during the war that led to the establishment of Israel in 1948. Today, there are an estimated 5 million refugees and their descendants, scattered across the region.

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