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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

King Abdullah says 'full funds' must go to Palestinian aid agency 

Calls for global action following a financial crisis triggered by US funding cuts

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi speaks during the inauguration of the 14th regional security summit 'The Manama Dialogue' in Manama, Bahrain  REUTERS/Hamad l Mohammed
Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi speaks during the inauguration of the 14th regional security summit 'The Manama Dialogue' in Manama, Bahrain  REUTERS/Hamad l Mohammed

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi called on Friday for "full funds" to be allocated to UN's Palestinian refugee agency, following a financial crisis triggered by US funding cuts.

Mr Safadi spoke on behalf of King Abdullah of Jordan who cancelled a scheduled appearance at a security conference in Manama, Bahrain, after the deaths of at least 21 people in flash floods near the Dead Sea.

"A critical security concern for the region and the world is the long denial of Palestinian statehood. This conflict has been a global disrupter of peace and stability," Mr Safadi said, reading a statement written by King Abdullah at the The Manama Dialogue summit in Bahrain.

The minister called for schools and opportunities for the youth to be nurtured, and the full funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

In September, the US administration described the organisation as "irredeemably flawed", announcing it had “carefully reviewed" the issue and "will not make additional contributions to UNRWA

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A spokesman for the agency, Chris Gunness, rejected Washington's decision.

"We reject in the strongest possible terms the criticism that UNRWA's schools, health centres, and emergency assistance programs are 'irredeemably flawed'," he said on Twitter.

The United States was by far the biggest contributor to the agency.

It received pledges of $118 million (DH433 million) from donor countries to help it overcome the crisis.

Kuwait and the European Union were among the biggest contributors along with Germany, Ireland and Norway.

The agency was founded in 1949 after the first Arab-Israeli war, in the wake of the exodus of around 700,000 refugees who fled or were driven out of Israel on its founding as a state.

UNRWA now looks after more than 5 million descendants of those original refugees, in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians assert the right under international law to return to homes abandoned in Israel or be compensated. Jordan says funding cuts to UNRWA undermine that right.

Mr Safadi urged the international community to assist Israel and Palestine in finding a durable two-state solution.

"In order for people to live in peace, they must be empowered to prepare for the day of peace," Mr Safadi said.

"Security and stability will not prevail until a two state solution is accepted," he said, adding that lasting peace cannot be unilateral.

A solution must be one that meets the needs of both sides, is fully in accord with international law and resolutions, that creates, a viable, independent, sovereign Palestinian state, on the 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

"Any such solution, based on unilateral acts and unequal rights, would be a moral disaster and a recipe for continued conflict," he warned.

“Peace can only be built by respecting the rights, hopes, and needs of both sides. This is the real security of peace,” he urged.

"We need all of you in the lead to help the international community work together, talk together, and keep to its principles," the minister said.