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UNRWA could stop working after West suspended funding - Russian MFA

According to the ministry, the 'freezing' of funding was in connection with Israeli suspicions about the involvement or participation of 12 UNRWA employees in the October 7, 2023 attack by Hamas

MOSCOW, February 1. /TASS/. Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East Philippe Lazzarini spoke by phone with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin and told him that the agency could stop its work after the suspension of Western funding.

"In recent days, a number of Western donors (15 countries) have announced the suspension or refusal to provide additional funds pledged to the agency. The 'freezing' of funding was in connection with Israeli suspicions about the involvement or participation of 12 UNRWA employees in the October 7, 2023 attack by Hamas," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini informed about the immediate measures taken to investigate and clarify all the circumstances of what happened, and assured that in the event of confirmation of the suspicions, all the culprits will be punished. It was also underscored that if the donors do not reconsider their decision, all activities of the agency, including in the Gaza Strip, which is engulfed in humanitarian disaster, will be completely stopped," the Russian Foreign Ministry stated. "It was underscored that suspicions against 12 employees of the agency cannot and should not be used to collectively punish the entire UN agency (the agency's staff in Gaza numbers 13,000 people) and almost 6 million Palestinians in the OPT and neighboring Arab countries."

The ministry said the amount in question is about $800 million, or 75% of the organization’s total budget. The ministry said Russia reaffirmed support for UNRWA, which is the key agency for providing comprehensive assistance to the Palestinians in the context of the unresolved refugee problem (one of the four final status issues along with borders, water and the status of Jerusalem).

"Vershinin highly appreciated the role of UNRWA, which for 75 years has been providing comprehensive support to Palestinian refugees not only in the occupied Palestinian territory (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip), but also in neighboring Arab countries (Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) mainly through voluntary contributions from donors. These funds are needed to implement projects in the field of education, health and social services for 5.9 million Palestinian refugees (initially the agency cared for 700,000 Palestinians that were forced to leave their homes as a result of the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948)," the ministry added.

According to the ministry, the sides continued a detailed exchange of views on the current situation in the area of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the context of escalating violence, primarily in the Gaza Strip.

"It was noted that there’s an urgent need for a ceasefire to ensure safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to all Palestinians that have suffered and need help, as well as to prevent threats of further expansion of the crisis," the statement said.