Jordan: Maintaining UNRWA is Preserving Rights of 5 Million Palestinian Refugees

Published September 29th, 2019 - 12:15 GMT
(MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)
(MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)
Jordanian FM says rallying meeting narrows agency’s budget deficit.

Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi on Friday stressed the importance of sustained financial and political support to UNRWA by the international community, to enable it to continue playing its UN-mandated role. 

He added that maintaining UNRWA is maintaining the rights of 5 million Palestinian refugees to a dignified living, the right of half a million students to education and the right of hundreds of thousands to healthcare, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

Safadi made his remarks in New York while co-chairing a meeting with his Swedish counterpart Ann Linde, organised by Jordan and Sweden to rally support to the UNRWA.

The UNRWA support-rallying meeting has resulted in an additional assistance of $31 million which minimises this year's financial deficit to $89 million, according to another ministry statement.

In his opening speech, Safadi highlighted that the UNRWA is tied to the refugee cause, which is one of the most significant final-status issues, which must be resolved in accordance with international legislative decisions, most notably UNGA Resolution 194 and the Arab Peace initiative to guarantee the refugees’ rights of return and compensation.

“What we are addressing today is the protection of the Palestinians’ right to live with dignity,” Safadi said, warning that the choice is either to fulfill their rights to a dignified living, education and healthcare or “plunge them into deprivation and desperation, which create an environment that fosters extremism and terrorism”.

Safadi stressed the importance of the international community’s role in bridging the UNRWA’s budget deficit to ensure the maintenance of its schools and services, noting that it is vital to reach an agreement on a mechanism that would sustain long-term funding to the agency for the next three or five years. 

The meeting was attended by UN Secretary General António Guterres, President of the UN General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, as well as foreign ministers and representatives from Belgium, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Norway, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, the UAE, the UK, the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

In a press conference following the meeting, Safadi said that the conference stresses that the international community has taken a “clear” stance in support of UNRWA, noting that the UNRWA is “here to stay until the refugee issue is resolved as part of a peace framework that ends the occupation of 1967 and fulfils the Palestinian peoples’ rights”. 

Safadi shed light on the “strong turnout” to the meeting, adding that the political stances announced during the meeting have translated into financial donations to bridge the UNRWA’s deficit, which stands at $120 million this year.

“Last year, we began with a deficit of around $446 million and wound up with a deficit of less than $20 million. We have left this meeting certain that we would be able to meet UNRWA’s financial needs,” Safadi said. 

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He added that the meeting also sought to reaffirm that UNRWA’s mandate, which will be put to a vote at the end of next year, will be renewed with international support.

“Today’s meeting serves as a message that the world will not allow the erasure of UNRWA,” Safadi said, adding that this message “must be sent to counter the threat facing the two-state solution as a result of unilateral Israeli measures, the most recent of which was the pledge to annex roughly 30 per cent of the occupied West Bank”, Safadi said. 

Following the Kingdom’s realisation of the sizeable threat facing the UNRWA, “His Majesty King Abdullah had tasked the Foreign Ministry and Jordanian institutions to work with our partners to protect the agency”, Safadi said. 

The top diplomat highlighted that the Arab stance on the Palestinian cause is united and has been affirmed at all Arab meetings and summits, adding that comprehensive peace cannot be achieved without a resolution to the conflict on the basis of a two-state solution that guarantees the establishment of an independent Palestinian state along the June 4, 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital. 

“Everyone realises that the alternative to a two-state solution would be the eruption of violence and conflict, which will impact not only the region but the world as well,” Safadi noted. 

Safadi expressed rejection of a single-state solution, “a racist state”, reiterating the need for cooperation and pointing to the various measures that have been and continue to be taken to shed light on the dangers of allowing Israel to strengthen the occupation and break international legislative decisions.

Speaking on Jerusalem, Safadi noted that King Abdullah is the Custodian of the Holy City’s Muslim and Christian sites, pointing to round-the-clock monitoring and efforts to prevent measures that would tamper with Al Haram Al Sharif/Al Aqsa Mosque or the Muslim and Christian identity of the holy sites. 

With regards to the peace process, Safadi said that “hope had been lost and we would like to restore it”. 

He added that the situation had been “frustrating over the past years due to the slow progress in the process”.

Responding to a question on the Jordan-Israel peace treaty, Safadi noted Jordan’s commitment to peace “as it is the right of every citizen”, adding that the region does not need more conflict.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

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