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EU announces $53mn for Palestinians following US aid cut

EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini (Photo by Reuters)

The European Union has approved a new package of aid worth 42.5 million euros (nearly $53m) to help the Palestinians build their future state following the US’s decision to cut support for the UN aid agency in Palestine.

“I am glad to announce today that we have just adopted a new assistance package of 42.5 million euros, including for activities in East Jerusalem [al-Quds] and support towards building a democratic and accountable Palestinian state,” the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday.

The aide came two weeks after the US President Donald Trump announced his intention to reduce Washington’s contribution to UNRWA, the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees.

Mogherini’s comments came ahead of an emergency meeting of an international committee coordinating Palestinian development aid.

The meeting brought Israeli, Palestinian, US and Arab officials and politicians together for the first time since US President Donald Trump made the controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital” in December 2017.

Trump’s declaration drew global condemnations and prompted the UN General Assembly to overwhelmingly approve a resolution against it.

Mogherini said “this is a difficult moment” for the region, alluding to Trump’s decision, saying that Wednesday’s meeting would focus on ways to promote the so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The top EU diplomat said that the United States will not be able to end the conflict without the help of the rest of the international community, warning that doing so would end in failure.

“Any framework for negotiations must be multilateral and must involve all players - all partners - that are essential to this process. A process without one or the other would simply not work, would simply not be realistic,” she said.

On January 16, the US State Department announced that Washington would hold back 65 million dollars to UNRWA - more than half its planned contribution this year - and demanded that the agency make unspecified reforms.

In a tweet on January 2, Trump said Washington gave the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars a year, but got “no appreciation or respect.”

On Monday, the 13,000 employees of UNRWA staged a strike that forced the closure of the organization’s schools, clinics and food stores, serving 1.4 million Gazans in protest at the US’s decision to cut its aid for the organization by $65 million.

UNRWA has appealed for more than $800 million (€645 million) to provide assistance such as food, water, shelter, medical support and education to some five million Palestinian refugees and their descendants in Gaza, the West Bank and Syria.

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