Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) told Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin in phone call yesterday that the agency could be forced to stop its work after the suspension of Western funding. “UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini informed about the immediate measures taken to investigate and clarify all the circumstances of what happened (regarding Israeli accusations that a handful of UNRWA employees were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack), 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, reported TASS. “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 [Occupied Palestinian Territories] 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.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide told Reuters yesterday that he was “reasonably optimistic” that some countries that had paused funding to the UNRWA would resume payments. Barth Eide said “many countries”—he declined to name any of them—were realizing that the current situation could not last very long. “They’re looking for a way out. And maybe if now UNRWA comes up quickly with a good response, which is accepted as serious, they will then happily restart,” he said. “Because I think we hear from several governments, and also governments who have been vocal publicly about the need to suspend, that they understand the very, very serious consequences.”