Jordan king seeks urgent funding for Palestinian refugees at UN
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Jordan king seeks urgent funding for Palestinian refugees at UN

In address to General Assembly, Abdullah warns that the US defunding of UNRWA will drive young people toward ‘radicalism and despair’

Jordan's King Abdullah II addresses the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations on September 25, 2018 in New York.  (AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY)
Jordan's King Abdullah II addresses the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations on September 25, 2018 in New York. (AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Tuesday pleaded for urgent aid for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to curb the appeal of radicalism after the United States ended all support.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, the Jordanian leader sought a revival of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and voiced worries about the financial collapse of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

“We need to support full funding of UNRWA and other vital efforts to protect families, keep communities stable and prepare young people for productive lives,” Abdullah said.

“It would be a terrible mistake to abandon youth to the forces of radicalism and despair. Such support is urgently needed to ensure UNRWA fulfills its role in accord with its UN mandate,” he said.

UNRWA supports some 5 million registered Palestinian refugees and their descendants, and provides schooling for 526,000 children in the West Bank and Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.

Refugee schoolchildren attend an official ceremony to return to school at one of the UNRWA schools at a Palestinian refugee camp Al-Wehdat, in Amman, Jordan, Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018. (AP Photo / Raad Adayleh)

Earlier this year, the US ended its $350 million contribution to the agency for 2018, resulting in a $217 million budget shortfall. In its decision, the US called UNRWA a “deeply flawed” organization, arguing the agency serves to perpetuate Palestinian suffering by recognizing as refugees the descendants of Palestinians who fled their homes during Israel’s War of Independence from 1947 to 1949.

With the US traditionally the largest funder of the agency, the move has created a funding crisis, especially in the impoverished Gaza Strip where more than 200,000 Palestinians attend UN-run schools.

Jordan — home to nearly 2.2 million Palestinians, who make up almost half of the kingdom’s population — will convene a meeting during the week of UN diplomacy in hopes of securing funding for UNRWA.

Abdullah in his UN address rejected the idea of a one-state solution in which Palestinians would be absorbed in the Jewish state.

The Jordanian king said the proposal had an “ugly, undemocratic reality.”

“There is no such thing as a unilateral agreement; it takes at least two parties to make an agreement,” he said. “Helping the parties achieve that agreement, and work together to build a new future, deserves the strong, steady support of all our world.”

Abdullah singled out the “long denial of a Palestinian state” as the “key crisis” in the region.

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