Palestinians seem to have reacted with “shock and disbelief” at the U.S.’ so-called peace plan for the Middle East, the acting head of UN agency for Palestine refugees said on Friday.
Christian Saunders, the Acting Commissioner-General of UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), was responding to questions at a UN press conference in Geneva on a $1.4 billion U.S. budget appeal for the agency which lost $360 million of U.S. funding in 2018.
UNWRA is the UN agency mandated by the UN General Assembly to provide protection and assistance to some 5.6 million Palestine refugees in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank including East Jerusalem, he said.
On the recently unveiled U.S. proposal on the Israel-Palestine dispute, Saunders said: “As the Secretary-General has clearly said, I think any plan needs to be a negotiated plan with all the parties of the conflict involved to last.
On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump released his plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian dispute at the White House alongside Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, with no Palestinian officials present.
During the event, Trump referred to Jerusalem as "Israel's undivided capital."
The so-called “Deal of the Century” unilaterally annuls previous UN resolutions on the Palestinian issue and suggests giving Israel almost everything they have been demanding.
“A lot of Palestinians are in a state of shock and in disbelief. The coming days will see how they respond,” said Saunders.
The U.S. stopped funding UNWRA in 2018 and in mid-2019 some countries suspended funding for UNWRA after a report alleging corruption, which Saunders said had been dealt with.
Saunders reiterated that UNRWA is a humanitarian organization.
“Our role is to provide assistance and protection to Palestine refugees, including education, healthcare, relief and social services and emergency assistance in times of crisis and conflict, until such time as there is a just and lasting solution for Palestine refugees,” he said.
“We want to reassure the Palestinian refugee community that their rights have not changed despite campaigns in some countries against UNWRA,” which he said were based on incorrect facts.
He also said that the position of the UN, and therefore of UNRWA, was firmly reiterated by the Secretary-General in a statement on Tuesday.
“The position of the United Nations on the two-state solution has been defined, throughout the years, by relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions by which the Secretariat is bound,” said Saunders.
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