US officials and UNRWA denied on Friday recent reports claiming that the US has frozen a $125 million aid grant to the organization and said that no final decision on the matter was reached. On Tuesday, Washington said it would stop funding UNRWA if the Palestinians continue to refuse to hold peace negotiations with Israel.
UNRWA Photo Credit: Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90
Senior US officials denied recent reports that $125 million in aid to the United Nations’ Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) has already been frozen. The reports came amid the US threatening to withhold aid to the organization.
A US State Department official told Reuters on Friday that the aid money was not suspended, despite the reports. “Just because they were expecting the money on the first, and they did not get it at that time, does not mean it was suspended or canceled,” he was quoted as saying. “Deliberations are ongoing, and we have until mid-January to make a final decision.”
UNRWA’s spokesperson Chris Gunness also denied funds being frozen and said that the US did not inform the organization of any final decision on the matter. Speaking to reporters in New York on Tuesday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said that Washington would stop funding UNRWA if the Palestinians continue to refuse to hold peace negotiations with Israel. The US is UNRWA’s top donor. In 2016 alone, Washington gave the UN agency over $300 million.
As previously reported by JOL, Haley’s remarks were met with praise in official Israeli statements, including by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, in behind-the-scenes talks with US officials, Netanyahu has reportedly expressed concern that such a move could create an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Gaza, further escalating an already highly-volatile situation.