UN warns of food shortages for Palestinians after US aid cut

Published 03.02.2018 00:00

U.S. cuts in aid have put in doubt food deliveries for the coming months, ahead of the U.N. agency responsible for Palestinians said on Friday.

"Right now, I do not actually know whether I can order enough food for the second quarter in April to June, because there is not enough money," U.N. Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Gaza head Matthias Schmale told Bavarian radio broadcaster Bayerische Rundfunk, as reported by dpa.

A reduction in food supplies for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, whose border points are tightly controlled by Israeli and Egyptian authorities, would have catastrophic effects, Schmale said.

UNRWA supports about 1 million people in the coastal strip with food provisions and also runs 267 schools and 21 health facilities.

Earlier this month, Washington announced that it would freeze $65 million in funding to the UNRWA unless Palestinians return to the negotiating table with Israelis. The UNRWA was formed in 1949 and supports some 5 million Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, many of whose families fled during the conflict that followed Israel's declaration of independence in 1948.

Palestinian leaders have strongly rejected the U.S. as a mediator between them and Israel since U.S. President Donald Trump decided to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December.

"The first problem is that the U.S. government has for the first time ... linked politics with humanitarian aid, and that is unacceptable for us and the people of the Gaza Strip," Schmale said in the radio interview.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will address the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Feb. 20 during the body's monthly meeting on the Middle East amid tensions Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Since Trump broke from decades of U.S. policy with his Dec. 6 announcement on Jerusalem, Abbas has said he will ask the council to grant full U.N. membership to Palestine and will only accept an internationally-backed panel to broker any peace talks with Israel.

Trump has threatened to withhold aid to the Palestinians if they did not pursue peace with Israel, but Abbas has said the United States had taken itself "off the table" as a peace mediator in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

In 2012, the U.N. General Assembly granted de facto recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state when it upgraded their status to a non-member state from an entity.

However, the UNSC has to recommend a state for full membership to the General Assembly, which then needs to approve it with a two-thirds majority. The United States would likely veto a Palestinian bid in the UNSC. In December, the 193-member General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for the United States to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Trump had threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that voted in favor. One-hundred-twenty-eight countries backed the resolution, which is non-binding, nine voted against and 35 abstained. Twenty-one countries did not vote.

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