Derry's Martina Anderson hits out at Donald Trump over Palestine

A Palestinian refugee living in Syria receives medication at an UNRWA clinic

The move indicates the leveraging its hefty payments to the United Nations Refugee Works Agency (UNRWA) to pressure Palestinian officials into acquiescing to its vision for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

"We hope that the U.S. administration and Congress can cooperate in reversing this politically motivated cut in aid before its effects ripple through the Middle East", said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

In a sign that the United States is ratcheting up pressure on Palestinian leadership, the Trump administration sent notice to UNRWA that it is withholding over half of this year's annual commitment, paying $60 million and freezing another $65 million.

"This is not aimed at punishing anyone", spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters. "We would like other countries - in fact, other countries that criticize the United States ... to step forward and actually help with UNRWA, to do more", she said.

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said cuts to UNRWA will "hamper the efforts towards a two-state political solution and regional stability", adding that Ankara will increase its contributions to the agency.

"First of all, UNRWA is not a Palestinian institution, it is a United Nations institution", he said at a United Nations press conference Tuesday.

The reduced US contribution "threatens one of the most successful and innovative human development endeavors in the Middle East", he wrote.

"We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect", Trump wrote.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has commented for the first time on the sharp two-hour long speech delivered by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas earlier this week.

During the 53-minute interview Trump also said he was considering a big "fine" as part of an investigation into China's alleged theft of intellectual property; that he has lost all trust in the chief Democratic Party negotiator on immigration in the Senate; and declined to clear up conflicting reports about his use of the phrase "shithole countries" in a White House meeting, which caused an global outcry. Living conditions in Gaza, Syria, the West bank and elsewhere in the region are particularly tough.

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Sinn Fein M.E.P. has critiscised U.S. President, Donald Trump, and his administration for, what she describes as, "withholding" aid money earmarked for Palestinian refugees.

"UNRWA has proven time and again to be an agency that misuses the humanitarian aid of the worldwide community and instead supports anti-Israel propaganda, perpetuates the plight of Palestinian refugees and encourages hate", said Danny Danon, Israel's ambassador to the UN.

The Middle East Forum has long pressed for a tightening of requirements for the "Palestine refugee" status, seeing this as both improving Palestinian lives and diminishing the threat to Israel.

"It is time for this absurdity to end and for humanitarian funds to be directed toward their intended goal - the welfare of refugees", he declared.

In a Twitter post, Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said the USA was "holding Palestinian kids' humanitarian needs hostage to political agendas".At the United Nations, Guterres told reporters that the services provided by UNRWA were "of extreme importance, not only for the well-being of these populations. but also in my opinion and an opinion that is shared by most global observers, including some Israeli ones, it is an important factor of stability".

Nauert said that Washington would be asking Arab nations and others to "kick in money".

UNRWA has provided health care, emergency aid and schooling to Palestinians since 1950.

While US officials did not link the decision to Trump's tweet, they made a point often advanced by him, saying the US had been UNRWA's single largest donor for decades.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he had not been informed of Washington's decision, but was "very concerned" by reports that it was in the works. It is an independent agency, not a Palestinian institution.

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