US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has blamed Middle Eastern countries for not doing enough to financially help the Palestinians and assist them with moving the peace process forward.
“Where are the Arab countries when it comes to supporting compromises that are necessary for peace?” Haley said in remarks on Tuesday during a UN Security Council meeting.
“It is time for the regional states, in particular, to step up and really help, instead of just making speeches thousands of miles away,” Haley said at the UNSC’s monthly meeting on the Middle East.
“Where are the Arab countries when it comes to encouraging reconciliation between Palestinian factions, which is essential to peace?”
Haley highlighted US assistance to the Palestinians, saying that Washington provided $300m in bilateral aid last year, and “over six billion dollars in bilateral assistance to Palestinians” since 1993.
She also mentioned US aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) – but without mentioning that total has been significantly reduced.
In January, US President Donald Trump’s administration announced that it was withholding $65m of a planned $125m funding instalment for the relief agency.
The move essentially cut the only lifeline available to millions of registered refugees across the Middle East who have been relying on UNRWA’s services for more than 70 years.
According to UN officials, the US, previously UNRWA’s top donor, provided $364m to the agency last year, but only $60m this year.
“How much have the Arab countries – some of whom are wealthy countries – how much have they given to the Palestinians?” Haley continued during Tuesday’s meeting.
“Last year, Iran’s contribution to UNRWA was zero. Algeria’s contribution to UNRWA was zero. Tunisia’s contribution to UNRWA was zero,” she said.
Her French counterpart Francois Delattre asked the US to reconsider its decision of suspending aid to the refugee agency, calling on Washington to “to shoulder its responsibilities” to help fill the agency’s estimated $200m gap.
Since the US decision, several attempts have been made to fill the gap in funding in a bid to help more than five million refugees in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, and war-torn Syria.
Last month, a conference held by the UN to raise money for basic services including food aid, medical care and sanitation, managed to garner pledges.
And in March, a summit in Rome co-organised by Jordan, Sweden, and Egypt to help fund the agency managed to raise $100m in aid pledges.
Olof Skoog of Sweden, the current president of the Security Council, let his frustration with US policy show, saying: “Everyone is waiting for a credible peace plan.”
“We haven’t seen that yet. It is now about a year since we were informed about a plan and we have not seen it yet. It is a problem that there is no credible plan on the table,” Skoog said.
Peace talks between Palestinian leaders – who view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state – and Israel have been at a standstill since Trump recognised Israel as the capital of Jerusalem, breaking years of US policy.
Meanwhile, Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip have recently been protesting the cuts that have led to the termination of at least 1,000 UNRWA employees.