Aid for millions caught in US-Palestinian row: UN agency

Palestinians take part in a protest against aid cuts outside of United Nations’ offices in Gaza City on January 17, 2018. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees faces its worst funding crisis ever after the United States froze tens of millions of dollars in contributions. (AFP)
Updated 19 January 2018
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Aid for millions caught in US-Palestinian row: UN agency

JERUSALEM: The head of the United Nations agency for Palestinians said Friday the US decision to freeze tens of millions of dollars in aid resulted from diplomatic disputes rather than the agency’s performance.
The US State Department this week froze two planned payments worth more than $100 million to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA), with a spokeswoman saying it was linked to necessary “reform” of the agency.
But Pierre Krahenbuhl, UNRWA’s commissioner general, said the agency had not been informed by the United States of any new reform demands, and was “caught up” in a dispute between the Palestinian leadership and the US administration.
“I have to look at this as not related to our performance but a decision and a debate that was caught up in the aftermath of what of course was the General Assembly resolution on Jerusalem and other matters,” Krahenbuhl told AFP in an interview in Jerusalem.
“My perception is there is a debate in the US administration about funding to the Palestinians and our funding got caught up in that.”
The US gave around $700 million in support to the Palestinians last year, of which about half went to UNRWA, which has a non-political mandate to provide schooling, health care and other services to Palestinians across the Middle East.
Israel and some American politicians accuse the agency of bias, with Israeli leaders saying its existence perpetuates the conflict.
The Palestinian leadership has cut ties with President Donald Trump’s administration since his controversial December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
It said that the US under Trump can no longer be mediator in peace talks with Israel.
The United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn the US decision on Jerusalem.
Trump had been pushing to restart peace talks but on January 2 he tweeted that the US gives the Palestinians “HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS” and gets “no appreciation or respect.”
“With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?“
On Tuesday his administration suspended $65 million to UNRWA, followed Thursday by another $45 million in food aid destined for the agency.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the money was being held but could be released “in the future, if reforms are met, if UNRWA agrees to undertake reforms, if other countries agreed to pitch in and provide money.”
Krahenbuhl said the agency had received no communication from the United States about further necessary reforms in recent days.
“What is new is a decision by the United States to dramatically reduce its contribution and that was not in the communications to me associated with reform elements.”


UN calls on Libya to crack down on violent militias

Khalifa Haftar. (Supplied)
Updated 21 August 2018
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UN calls on Libya to crack down on violent militias

  • Libya remains divided between the UN-backed GNA in Tripoli and a rival administration in the east supported by military strongman Khalifa Haftar
  • Tripoli office to a more “secure” location after threats from militiamen against its employees

TRIPOLI: The UN has called on Libya’s internationally recognized government to crack down on armed groups obstructing the work of state institutions in the chaos-wracked country.
The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) late on Sunday night expressed its “strong condemnation of the violence, intimidation and obstruction to the work of Libya’s sovereign institutions by militiamen.”
It called on the UN-backed Government of National Accord to “prosecute those responsible for these criminal actions.”
The GNA’s military and security institutions have failed to place limits on the powerful militias that sprung up in the turmoil that followed the 2011 ouster of dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Several state institutions, including those in Tripoli, have been regular targets of harassment and intimidation by armed groups technically operating under the GNA’s Interior Ministry.
Members of militias “nominally acting under the Ministry of Interior of the Government of National Accord are attacking sovereign institutions and preventing them from being able to operate effectively,” UNSMIL said.
Last week, the GNA’s National Oil Corp. said men from the Interior Ministry had forced their way into the headquarters of Brega Petroleum Marketing Company — a distribution outfit — to “arrest” its chief.
The Libyan Investment Authority, the GNA-managed sovereign wealth fund, recently moved from its downtown Tripoli office to a more “secure” location after threats from militiamen against its employees.
UNSMIL said it would work with the international community and the GNA to “investigate the possibility of bringing sanctions against those interfering with or threatening the operations of any sovereign institution.”
Libya remains divided between the UN-backed GNA in Tripoli and a rival administration in the east supported by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.
A myriad of militias,terrorist groups and people traffickers have taken advantage of the chaos to gain a foothold in the North African country.