Egypt, Morocco, Jordan to attend Bahrain workshop on Palestine investment

Egypt, Morocco and Jordan have informed the US that they will attend the conference on investment in Palestinian areas in Bahrain in late June. (Shutterstock)
Updated 23 June 2019

Egypt, Morocco, Jordan to attend Bahrain workshop on Palestine investment

  • Egypt and Jordan's participation is considered especially important
  • Palestinian leaders have threatened to boycott the conference

LONDON: Egypt, Morocco and Jordan have informed the US that they will attend an upcoming conference on investment in Palestinian areas to be held in Bahrain in late June, according to a White House official.

The White House announced last month that it would co-host the June 25-26 conference with Bahrain focusing on economic aspects of the long-delayed “Deal of the Century” US peace plan, with the declared aim of achieving Palestinian prosperity.

The conference “serves no other purpose” than to help the Palestinian people “through developing their abilities and enhancing their resources,” the Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa said in May.

Egypt and Jordan's participation is considered especially important since they have historically been key players in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

The White House hailed the countries' attendance as “welcome news,” a sign “that our workshop is gathering momentum as we had anticipated.”

The level of their representatives was not immediately known, but the US had extended invitations to finance ministers.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE are already scheduled to attend.

Presidential advisers Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt made personal appeals to the kings of Morocco and Jordan during their recent tour of the Middle East  to rally support for the plan.

However, Palestinian leaders have threatened to boycott the conference.


UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

A Palestinian refugee holds a placard at a school belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in the town of Sebline east of the southern Lebanese port of Saida, on March 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2019

UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

  • UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses

BRUSSELS: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees is waiting anxiously on the outcome this month of a probe into alleged mismanagement that has dented its already severely depleted funding, one of its top officials said Monday.
The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.
UNRWA’s director for West Bank operations Gwyn Lewis told AFP in Brussels: “We’re waiting with bated breath because it obviously has financial implications.”
She said the conclusions of the probe are expected to be delivered “around the end of October” to UN chief Antonio Guterres, who would then issue public and internal “follow-up steps.”
The timing is crucial as the agency’s three-year mandate is up for renewal this month, and money is tight.
UNRWA has been skating on very thin financial ice since last year, after US President Donald Trump decided to suspend, then yank entirely his country’s contribution to the agency’s budget, robbing it of its top donor.
Those woes were compounded by the allegations of abuse by the agency’s management, leading other key donors — the Netherlands and Switzerland — to snap shut their purses.
That has left the agency struggling to provide the schooling, medical and sanitary programs it runs for Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.
According to a copy of an internal UN report obtained by AFP in July, senior management at UNRWA engaged in “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain.”

FASTFACT

The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.

Lewis did not confirm those allegations, noting only “rumors” and leaks to the media.
“None of us have actually seen it,” she said of the report, adding: “Our sense is that it’s not about financial misappropriation or corruption, it’s linked to management and human resources issues.”
She did note that the agency’s deputy chief, Sandra Mitchell, had been replaced in August by an acting deputy commissioner-general tasked with strengthening human resources and financial oversight.
Lewis said she was in Brussels for two days of meetings with European Commission officials to shore up UNRWA’s mandate renewal and, importantly, to maintain funding.
Despite program cutbacks, the agency faces an $89 million shortfall for the rest of this year, she said, and “financial uncertainty” beyond that.
UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses. Making up for the pulled US funding was a “challenge,” she said.