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US to cut $65m in aid to Palestinian refugees

The US will give a UN agency $60m in aid for Palestinian refugees but withhold a further $65m “for future consideration”, the State Department says.

The decision would sustain schools and health services, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a daily briefing.

Ms Nauert said the department notified the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) of the decision in a letter.

She said the Trump administration was conditioning the release of the additional funds on whether the organisation makes unspecified reforms.

However, she insisted the decision was “not aimed at punishing” anyone.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 30: U.S. Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert speaks in the press briefing room at the Department of State on November 30, 2017 in Washington, DC. Nauert addressed the media on Thursday about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his future at the State Department. (Photo by Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert revealed $65m of aid would be kept back

Donald Trump tweeted on 2 January saying Washington gives the Palestinians “HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect”.

He went on: “They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel… with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

The US has provided the Palestinian Authority with budgetary support and security assistance for a long time, as well as the additional funding for UN’s programmes in the West Bank and Gaza.

While Ms Nauert did not link the President’s earlier tweet with the decision, she said the burden needed to be shared.

“The United States government and the Trump administration believes there should be more burden sharing going around,” she said.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (C) speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018. Abbas said that Israel has 'ended' the landmark Oslo peace accords of the 1990s with its actions. / AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI (Photo credit should read ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Palestinian President was critical of Donald Trump on Sunday

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hit out at Mr Trump in a speech on Sunday.

Mr Abbas said: “He said in a tweet: ‘We won’t give money to the Palestinians because they rejected the negotiations.’

“Shame on you. When did we reject the talks? Where is the negotiation that we rejected?”

Mr Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has further increased tensions between the US and the Palestinians, who say the move showed Washington could not be a neutral broker in peace talks.

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