UN renews agency helping Palestinian refugees despite US opposition

NEW YORK (dpa)- The United Nations General Assembly on Friday overwhelmingly voted to renew the mandate for the UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) amid a funding crisis and mismanagement allegations.
UNRWA's mandate was extended for three years, with 169 states voting in favour and nine abstentions.

The United States and Israel voted against. The two countries have accused the agency of anti-Israel incitement, with Israel's prime minister calling for its dismantling.
The US, UNRWA's biggest donor, contributing an annual 360 million dollars, discontinued its support last year, leaving the agency with a cash shortfall.
The renewal of the mandate also comes after the agency's commissioner general, Pierre Krahenbuhl, resigned in November after an internal UN probe found he had presided over management issues.
Krahenbuhl denied the allegations, saying UNRWA had been subject to political, financial and personal attacks in order to undermine its work.
Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands put payments to the agency on hold over the investigation.
UN chief Antonio Guterres designated Christian Saunders to replace Krahenbuhl and tasked him with strengthening the agency's management.
A spokesman for Guterres on Friday said he was "encouraged" by the General Assembly vote.
"We want to make sure that UNRWA continues both to be supported in its mandate and fully funded in its operations," Farhan Haq said.
UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, provides assistance and protection for some 5.5 million refugees in Jordan, the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.

Saturday, December 14th 2019

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