(February 11, 2018 / BRUSSELS / EJP / Exclusive to JNS) The European Parliament has pledged to continue funding UNWRA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, in a resolution adopted during this week’s parliament plenary session in Strasbourg. The group called upon the United States to renew the funding it suspended last month.
During the debate, Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, pledged continued EU support for UNRWA.
The resolution urges the United States “to reconsider its decision and to honor the payment of its entire scheduled contribution to the agency.”
The U.S. has announced it would cut some of its funding to UNRWA, citing a need to undertake a fundamental reexamination of the organization, both in the way it operates and the way it is funded.
US President Donald Trump has questioned the wisdom of providing hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority given their refusal to resume peace talks with Israel.
UNRWA has long been a target for criticism in light of Hamas’s activity in its educational institutions and the use of its facilities by Palestinian Arab terrorist organizations in Gaza.
The agency was documented storing Hamas rockets and weapons “designed to kill Israeli citizens” in its schools, a fact which the UNRWA chief admitted himself.
In addition, the organization has actively taken part in inciting anti-Semitic violence.
However, the EU foreign affairs chief pledged continued support for the organization, arguing that “the work they do is crucial for the perspective of an agreement between Israel and Palestine,” Mogherini said, adding that the agency’s contribution “provides the political space toward achieving a peace deal and building a Palestinian state.”
UNRWA is also important for the political process in Gaza, Mogherini said, calling Palestinian reconciliation “essential for the perspective of a viable state of Palestine.”
Besides the agency’s role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, UNRWA plays an essential part in working toward stability throughout the Middle East, Mogherini said. “Investing in UNWRA is also investing in our collective regional security,” she stated.
“The work they do is crucial for the prospects of an agreement between Israel and Palestine,’’ Mogherini told the European Parliament.’’ It is a key political contribution that UNRWA is bringing to the prospect of relaunching a credible peace process, because a just, fair, agreed and realistic solution to the refugee question is one of the parameters of for peace negotiations, with the ultimate objective of achieving a two‑state solution,’’ she said.
“The work that UNRWA does provides the political space towards achieving a peace deal and building a Palestinian State,’’ she added.
Mogherini vowed that the EU will continue to financially support UNRWA and called on established donors as well as those “less engaged” to step up their efforts with regards to donating to the agency.