Ministers discuss Palestinian refugee situation with Commissioner General of UNRWA and confirm total Irish funding of €4.3 million this year
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern T.D., and the Minister of State for Overseas Development, Michael Kitt T.D., have warmly welcomed today’s visit to Ireland by Ms. Karen Koning AbuZayd, Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). UNRWA provides essential health, education and social services for 4.5 million Palestinian refugees. During her visit, the Commissioner General will meet with Minister Ahern and with Minister Kitt, and will pay a courtesy call on President McAleese.
Welcoming the visit, Minister Ahern paid particular tribute to the role being played by Karen Abu Zayd in highlighting the extremely difficult humanitarian situation facing Palestinian refugees. He stated:
“Ireland has been a longstanding supporter of the work of UNRWA, which I saw for myself when I visited a refugee camp in Bethlehem with Karen Abu Zayd earlier this year. This is a time of cautious optimism in the Middle East Peace Process, but it is also a time of increasing difficulty for many ordinary Palestinians, especially the people of Gaza. I look forward to hearing from the Commissioner General on the reality of the humanitarian situation. I have argued for some time that the opportunity in the Peace Process can only be realised if there is strong international support and if there is urgent change in the conditions of daily life for the Palestinian people, so that they can focus on their political future in an independent Palestinian State. It is therefore increasingly urgent that there be an end to all violence, the lifting of restrictions on movement, a genuine freeze on the construction of settlements in the Occupied Territories and an end to the isolation of the people of Gaza”.
Minister Kitt noted that Ireland’s assistance to the Palestinian people has increased by 70% in the past two years, to €7.5 million in 2007. “At the International Donors Conference in Paris on Monday last, I pledged €40 million in Irish assistance for reconstruction and development in Palestine, in the context of agreement. The Government this year increased our core funding for UNRWA by 27%, to €3.8 million annually, for the next three years. Today, I am pleased to announce further immediate funding of €500,000 for UNRWA in Gaza, bringing Ireland’s total funding for the Agency in 2007 to €4.3 million.”
19th December 2007