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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

India quadruples financial contribution to UN agency for Palestinian refugees

The increase is in response to an urgent appeal for help by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

A Palestinian refugee family warm themselves by a fire in their house during cold weather in Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. Mohammed Saber/ EPA
A Palestinian refugee family warm themselves by a fire in their house during cold weather in Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. Mohammed Saber/ EPA

India has announced it will quadruple its contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The Indian government has committed to the increase for the next three years in response to an urgent appeal by UNRWA for help.

"The Government of India has increased its annual contribution for UNRWA from US$1.25 million to US$5 million from 2018 for three years. This enhancement was made in the backdrop of the unprecedented financial crisis being faced by UNRWA, which has been delivering valuable public services to Palestine Refugees around the world," the Ministry stated.

UNRWA defines Palestine refugees as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” Around five million Palestinians are eligible for UNRWA services today, according to the organisation’s website.

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The announcement follows Narendra Modi’s visit to Ramallah in February, the first time an Indian Prime Minister has visited Palestine.

Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Pierre Krahenbuhl, visited New Delhi recently to seek further support from the Indian government. Following the visit, Sushma Swaraj, India’s Minister of External Affairs, appealed to other countries within Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) for help in increasing humanitarian relief efforts.

"I can think of no better way to manifest in a practical manner, NAM solidarity for the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people," Ms Swaraj said during a NAM meeting in New York in September 2017.

In January the US froze two planned payments worth more than $100m to UNRWA, citing the agency’s performance as the reason.

However, UNRWA said that diplomatic tensions were behind the freeze, following President Donald Trump’s decision to formally recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December. The Palestinian leadership refused to have anything to do with the Trump administration after the move.

President Trump claimed that the US pays "HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS" to Palestine and gets "no appreciation or respect".

"With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?" he tweeted days before the payment freeze.