Nahr al-Bared refugee camp Reuters 27.10.2010
UN officials reviewing reconstruction of Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon, Oct. 27, 2010. Photo by Reuters
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Jordan has condemned remarks by a United Nations official saying Palestinian refugees must not be deluded about their right to return and that Arab countries must resettle them.

Wajih Azaizeh, who directs Jordan's Palestinian Affairs Department, on Thursday called remarks by Andrew Whitley, the N.Y. director of the UN's agency for Palestinian refugees, "irresponsible."

Speaking at a National Council for US-Arab Relations conference last week, Whitley, who heads United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said that Palestinian refugees needed to start "debating their own role in the societies where they are rather than being left in a state of limbo where they are helpless."

The UN official added that the Palestinian refugees must not be allowed to preserve the cruel illusions that perhaps they will return one day to their homes."

“We recognize, as I think most do, although it’s not a position that we publicly articulate, that the right of return is unlikely to be exercised to the territory of Israel to any significant or meaningful extent,” he said, adding that “It’s not a politically palatable issue, it’s not one that UNRWA publicly advocates, but nevertheless it’s a known contour to the issue.”

Jordan maintains a delicate demographic balance between those of Palestinian origin and other Jordanians.

It has been the main recipient of Palestinian refugees from successive wars with Israel and says their fate must be decided in peace negotiations.