Former UN envoys urge US to restore Palestinian refugee funds

An Israeli soldier aims his gun as Israeli forces confront Palestinian protesters following a weekly demonstration against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel in the village of Kfar Qaddum, near Nablus in the occupied West Bank, in this June 29, 2018 photo. (AFP)
Updated 03 July 2018
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Former UN envoys urge US to restore Palestinian refugee funds

  • The agency was created after the war that followed the creation of Israel in 1948, with about 700,000 Palestinians living there either fleeing or being forced from their homes
  • The US has historically been the top donor to the agency, and last year provided $364 million

WASHINGTON: Seven former American ambassadors to the UN called on the Trump administration on Monday to restore funding to the UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees across the Middle East.
In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the ex-envoys from both Republican and Democratic administrations said withholding funds from the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) will have national-security implications for US partners in the region, including Israel and Jordan.
The agency is facing a major budget shortfall due in part to the suspension of US assistance. The UN says UNRWA needs $250 million without which it will be forced to severely curtail programs to provide basic services — from food assistance and medical care to sanitation — for 5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
“This financial gap puts into question the ability of UNRWA to continue to deliver education and health care services to millions of people, and has national security ramifications for our closest allies, including Israel and Jordan,” the former ambassadors said in the letter, which was also sent to the current US envoy to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.
“We urge you to restore US funding to help fill this gap,” said the envoys, who include Thomas Pickering and Edward Perkins, who served under President George H.W. Bush; Madeleine Albright and Bill Richardson, who served under President Bill Clinton; John Negroponte, who served under President George W. Bush; and Susan Rice and Samantha Power, who served under President Barack Obama.
The US has historically been the top donor to the agency, and last year provided $364 million. But this year, the Trump administration announced that it was withholding more than half its initial installment of $125 million. The rest of that, along with additional payments, are on hold until the agency implements structural reforms.
UNRWA Director Pierre Krahenbuhl said at an emergency donors’ conference last week that the US cuts along with other shortfalls are endangering food assistance in Gaza and medical clinics spread among the five areas, while about 500,000 children may not be able to start the school year.
The agency was created after the war that followed the creation of Israel in 1948, with about 700,000 Palestinians living there either fleeing or being forced from their homes. The UNRWA now faces its worst crisis in nearly seven decades, according to Krahenbuhl.


Algeria opposition propose six-month political transition

Updated 4 min 36 sec ago
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Algeria opposition propose six-month political transition

  • The roadmap stipulates the creation of a ‘presidential body’ that would run the country during the transition period
  • Algeria’s opposition however has been marginalized by the protest movement

ALGIERS: A group of Algerian opposition parties and unions proposed on Saturday a “roadmap” to end a political crisis and weeks of protests sparked by the veteran president’s bid to stay in power.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said on February 22 he would run for a fifth term in April 18 elections, despite concerns about his ability to rule, triggering an outcry in the country which has since been gripped by demonstrations.

The 82-year-old, who uses a wheelchair and has rarely appeared in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, earlier this month said he would pull out of the race.

But he also postponed the elections, meaning he will stay in power until polls are held.

Bouteflika’s current mandate expires on April 28 and proposals agreed at a meeting between opposition parties and unions call for a six-month transition period from that date.

The roadmap stipulates the creation of a “presidential body” that would run the country during the transition period and which would be comprised of “national figures known for their credibility, integrity and competence.”

But members of the body should not run in future presidential elections nor back any candidates in the poll, the statement seen by AFP said.

The proposals were made during a meeting attended namely by the party of Bouteflika’s key rival Ali Benflis, a former prime minister who has joined the opposition, and the main Islamist party, the Movement for the Society of Peace.

Algeria’s opposition however has been marginalized by the protest movement, which has been largely led by students angry with the country’s political system.

The proposals come a day after hundreds of thousands of Algerians demonstrated nationwide for a fifth consecutive Friday, demanding that Bouteflika stand down and calling for regime change.

On Saturday, around 1,000 lawyers rallied in the capital Algiers chanting “we’re fed up” with this government and calling on the political system to “go away.”