Germany to Boost Funds to UNRWA Amid Reports of Cuts by U.S.

A U.S. State Department official, however, told Haaretz Thursday that there is 'no change at this time'

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Girls sit inside a classroom at an UNRWA school during the first day of a new school year in Gaza City, August 29, 2018.
Girls sit inside a classroom at an UNRWA school during the first day of a new school year in Gaza City, August 29, 2018. Credit: Felipe Dana,AP

Germany is preparing a "substantial" increase in its contributions to the cash-strapped UN agency for Palestinian refugees amid reports that the United States plans to withhold a large share of its funding, according to a letter seen by dpa.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) supports Palestinians who lost their home as a result of the Middle East conflict. It helps around 5 million people, providing food aid, operating schools and running health centers. 

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But U.S. officials argue that UNRWA has perpetuated the Palestinian refugee crisis. Under U.S. President Donald Trump, Washington has only provided the agency with 60 million dollars this year, compared to 365 million dollars for humanitarian aid and projects in 2017. 

Berlin is "preparing the allocation of further means of a substantial volume," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wrote Thursday to his EU counterparts, who have been holding informal talks in Vienna. 

He did not say how much Germany would contribute, but noted that it would not be enough to make up the agency's current shortfall of 217 million dollars. 

"It is therefore all the more important that we, as the European Union, jointly undertake further efforts," Maas added, noting that UNRWA plays an important role in the stability of the region.

Were UNRWA to become defunct, it could cause an "uncontrollable chain reaction," the minister warned.

So far this year, Germany has provided the UN agency with 81 million euros (94.5 million dollars), according to the letter.

The U.S. announced in January that it was freezing a significant share of its UNRWA funding. Trump has accused the Palestinians of blocking progress in the Middle East peace talks, while the Palestinian side accuses him of a pro-Israel bias.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Trump plans to end all U.S. funding for UNRWA, while the number of Palestinians to be recognized as refugees is to be drastically reduced.

However, a U.S. State Department official told Haaretz Thursday that no decision on the matter has been made, and that there is "no change at this time.

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