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After US aid cut, Belgium pledges $23m to United Nations refugees agency

After US aid cut, Belgium pledges $23m to United Nations refugees agency

The UN Relief and Welfare Agency (UNRWA) is launching an worldwide campaign to raise funds to aid Palestinian refugees after the U.S. cut its funding by half.

"I have a lot of respect for UNRWA's work, which has to operate in the most hard and unsafe circumstances".

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert denied in a statement that the withholding of the $65 million was to punish Palestinians, who sharply criticized President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on December 6.

International NGO's condemned the cut in the United States funding.

Alexander De Croo, the Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium made the pledge in a statement on Wednesday revealing that Brussels would allocate the funds over three years.

Israel and some American politicians accuse the agency of bias, with Israeli leaders saying its existence perpetuates the conflict.

Trump's aides initially debated whether to cut off all UNRWA aid, an unidentified US official said, but hose opposed argued that could further destabilize the region.

The United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn the U.S. decision on Jerusalem.

In a Twitter post on January 2, Trump said that Washington gives the Palestinians "HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect".




"They don't even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel", he protested, adding: "Why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?"

The United States said this week it had chose to pay the U.N. Relief and Works Agency $60 million but was putting a hold on another $65 million it had been expected to offer.

State Department officials insisted the decision was not taken to pressure Palestinian leaders, but because the U.S. wants other countries to help pay for and reform UNRWA.

Krahenbuhl said the agency had received no communication from the United States about further necessary reforms in recent days.

The United States has always been its biggest donor, with large voluntary payments topping up the budget that other UN member states provide for the frontline agency.

"This dramatically reduced contribution results in the most severe funding crisis in the history of the agency".

The last talks collapsed in 2014, partly because of Israel's opposition to an attempted unity pact between the Fatah and Hamas Palestinian factions and to Israeli settlement building on occupied land that Palestinians seek for a state, among other factors.

"For the moment there has been no further communication".

But voluntary payments from the USA are the biggest single source of support for the 68-year-old body, and other United States officials opposed an immediate and total suspension.