UN Palestinian schools to open on time despite US funding freeze

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said all 711 schools it runs for 526,000 pupils in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria would open for the coming school year. (AFP)
Updated 16 August 2018
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UN Palestinian schools to open on time despite US funding freeze

  • There had been warnings from UN chief Antonio Guterres and others that the schools might not be able to open due to funding shortages
  • Last month, UNRWA announced it was cutting more than 250 jobs in the Palestinian territories due to the funding crisis

JERUSALEM: Hundreds of UN-run schools for Palestinian refugees will open on time after fresh funding temporarily staved off a financial crisis triggered by a US contributions freeze, the United Nations said on Thursday.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said all 711 schools it runs for 526,000 pupils in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria would open for the coming school year.
There had been warnings from UN chief Antonio Guterres and others that the schools might not be able to open due to funding shortages provoked by US President Donald Trump’s decision to withhold aid to the Palestinians.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) said it had mobilized an additional $238 million since the start of the year, but added that it currently only had enough cash to keep its services operating through September.
“We need a further $217 million to ensure that our schools not only open but can be run until the end of the year,” the agency said in a statement.
The schools are due to open over a staggered time period between August 29 and September 2.
UNRWA has faced a $300 million freeze in funding from the United States as Trump demands changes to the agency and seeks to pressure the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
Other countries have since provided additional contributions but UNRWA says it is not enough.
The agency provides services to more than three million Palestinian refugees and their descendants across the Middle East and employs more than 20,000 people, the vast majority Palestinians.
Last month, UNRWA announced it was cutting more than 250 jobs in the Palestinian territories due to the funding crisis.
UNRWA was set up after the 1948 war that accompanied the creation of Israel, during which more than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes.
Israel argues the agency is biased against it and perpetuates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
UN officials and others say that the agency provides vital services to the vulnerable communities under its mandate.


Iraq’s president to visit Saudi Arabia as part of regional tour

Updated 29 min 29 sec ago
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Iraq’s president to visit Saudi Arabia as part of regional tour

  • Salih visited the UAE on Monday and Kuwait on Sunday
  • The Iraqi president visited Jordan on Thursday where he met King Abdullah II of Jordan

JEDDAH: Iraq’s President Barham Salih will visit Saudi Arabia as part of a regional tour that will also include a visit to Iran on Saturday.
The Iraqi president visited Jordan on Thursday where he met King Abdullah II of Jordan. The two leaders discussed projects in the fields of energy, the extension of an oil pipeline between the two countries, and supplying electricity to Iraq.
“The governments of Iraq and Jordan will promote economic cooperation: the joint industrial city, energy cooperation, the oil pipeline from Basra to Aqaba,” Salih tweeted.
Salih also visited the UAE on Monday and Kuwait on Sunday.
On Saturday the Kurdish president will meet Hassan Rouhani in Tehran and a number of Iranian leaders and officials to discuss bilateral relations, ways to increase cooperation, and developments in the region, the Iraq state news agency said.
The veteran politician was elected last month as Iraq attempted to form a government after months of deadlock since elections in May.
His meetings in Iran will be dominated by a number of pressing political, economic and security issues.
The election left Iraq’s main political forces divided into pro and anti Iran factions. Many in Iraq have become critical of Iran’s heavy-handed influence in the country and its funding of powerful armed factions.
Because of its economic ties with Iran, Iraq has also been put in a difficult position by fresh US sanctions against Tehran.
Last week, the US said Iraq could continue to import natural gas and energy supplies from Iran for a period of 45 days, after reimposing sanctions on Tehran’s oil sector.
Iraq’s central bank said in August that Baghdad would ask Washington for exemptions from some of the sanctions.