WASHINGTON – The U.S. has delayed paying about $125 million to the United Nations agency that serves Palestinian refugees, said two people familiar with the matter, after President Donald Trump vented his frustration about getting no “respect” or help in the peace process despite American funding.
The U.S., by far the biggest contributor to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), had been expected to deliver the payment on Tuesday. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson put a hold on the funds while the administration reviews its next steps, said one of the people.
The delay could be purely symbolic, since the U.S. has a few more weeks before it must make the payment. But the delay is a break from past practice, when such funds were delivered promptly at the start of the year.
Trump tweeted on Tuesday that the U.S. pays the Palestinians “HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year” and gets “no appreciation or respect” in return.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., later told reporters the administration would cut off aid if the Palestinians refused to take part in peace talks with Israel.
Haley and the administration were also angered by action at the U.N. General Assembly in December in which member states voted 128-9 to condemn Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Most nations view the status of Jerusalem, parts of which are claimed by the Palestinians, as an issue to be determined in peace negotiations. Palestinian officials said Trump’s move disqualified the U.S. from being a mediator.
The U.N. established UNRWA in 1949 to help Palestinian refugees. It assists millions of people, chiefly through educational and health services. It isn’t associated with the Palestinian government.
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