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US Halts $125 Million in Funding for Palestinian Refugees - Report

© REUTERS / Jonathan ErnstUS President Donald Trump delivers remarks recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at the White House in Washington, US December 6, 2017.
US President Donald Trump delivers remarks recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at the White House in Washington, US December 6, 2017. - Sputnik International
The US has reduced funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East by almost 33 percent, according to multiple published reports.

The decision was spurred by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's unwillingness to participate in peace talks with Israel following US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Israeli state December 6. 

U.S. President Donald Trump departs for holiday travel to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, from the White House in Washington, U.S. December 22, 2017 - Sputnik International
Trump’s Threat to Cut Palestine Funding Could Inflict ‘Untold Suffering’

Several Western diplomats confirmed that $125 million in financial assistance the US was supposed to send to UNRWA by January 1 had been withheld. A State Department disputed having a January 1 deadline to transfer the funds, though, telling Axios, "There are still deliberations taking place, and we have until mid-January to decide what we are going to do." 

Earlier in the week, Trump complained on Twitter that "we pay the Palestinians HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect."

"They don't even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel," the US leader added. 

Speaking with Sputnik Radio's Loud & Clear about Trump's threat to axe funding to the Palestinians, cofounder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abumimah, said it would be important to determine whether the funding cuts would hit UNRWA or the Palestinian Authority. If the cuts targeted UNRWA, "that would inflict untold suffering for millions of the most vulnerable people in the world."

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has privately urged Trump not scale back UNRWA's funding, the Times of Israel reported Thursday. "Behind the scenes, the prime minister is now in contact with the Americans in order to prevent the massive cut [in US funding for UNRWA] — to prevent it, you heard it right," the Times of Israel quoted an Israeli TV broadcaster saying. While Netanyahu apparently does not want to undermine Trump's positions, he "wants to steer bewteen the desire to publicly back Trump and to prevent a disaster in Gaza."

The Trump administration announced this week it would be cutting security assistance to the Pakistani government for its alleged role in providing safe haven for terrorist groups.

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