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Arab League calls for UN-backed 'multilateral' push for peace in Palestine

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A picture taken on February 1, 2018 shows Arab League foreign ministers meeting at the Arab League headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo during an extraordinary session to discuss their stance on Jerusalem al-Quds and the US decision to relocate its embassy to the holy city. (Photo by AFP)

The Arab League has called for the US-brokered efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be replaced by a "multilateral mechanism" that is also backed by the United Nations, after US President Donald Trump undermined the process by recognizing Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel's capital.

In a statement at the end of their two-day session in the Egyptian capital Cairo to discuss Trump's declaration, Arab foreign ministers said Thursday that it was time for the "creation of an international and multilateral mechanism under the aegis of the United Nations to sponsor the peace process."

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the head of the organization, told a media briefing that the peace process should no longer remain "within the hands" of only one faction.

Palestinians hope the eastern parts of Jerusalem al-Quds would become the capital of a fully sovereign and independent Palestine.

Ever since Trump's announcement in early December, Palestine has frozen ties with his administration. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said that his side would no longer accept Washington as a mediator.

Doubling down on that position, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told reporters following the Thursday session that the "old mechanism has ceased to exist and is history."

"It will not bother us should the United States be part of the (new) mechanism," the diplomat added.

US aid cut

Earlier, the Arab officials slammed a decision by Trump to cut US funding for UNRWA, a UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees and is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN member states.

Days after his controversial decision, Trump said he would withhold some $65 million of the $125 million in aid Washington had earmarked for the new year unless the Palestinian Authority agreed to continue the so-called peace talks with Israel.

"It is no secret that this trend poses a threat to the refugee issue... as well as the negative consequences that will not only affect the receiving countries of refugees, but also the stability and security of the region," Aboul Gheit said.

In a speech to the meeting, the UNRWA chief, Pierre Krähenbühl, also described Washington’s aid cut as “the most severe crisis in the agency’s history,” saying he has launched a global fund-raising campaign to overcome the financial crisis under the theme of “dignity for Palestinian refugees.”

Krähenbühl said the Arab countries have pledged to cover 7.8 percent of UNRWA’s annual program budget, calling on them to increase their contributions by 10 percent to help the UN body fulfill its commitments.

More than half of the two million people living in the Israeli-besieged Gaza Strip are in dire need of help by UNRWA and other similar agencies. Palestinians say the funding cut is bound to exacerbate life conditions in the coastal enclave, where the unemployment rate is a whopping 46 percent.

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