Jordan Slams UN Official for Urging Palestinian Refugees to Resettle in Arab States

Amman minister criticizes comment by UNRWA official, according to which Palestinian refugees must discard illusions they will return one day to their homes.

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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.

UN officials reviewing reconstruction of Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon, Oct. 27, 2010.Credit: Reuters

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 its 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 Its not a politically palatable issue, its not one that UNRWA publicly advocates, but nevertheless its 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.

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