Diplomacy

Swiss FM Says UNRWA Has Become “Part of the Problem”

Switzerland’s new foreign minister has once again criticized the United Nations agency in charge of Palestinian refugees, saying that UNRWA has become “part of the problem” in the Middle East, The Times of Israel reported Wednesday.

Two weeks ago, Ignazio Cassis said that UNRWA hindered the prospects of peace in the Middle East by fueling “unrealistic” hopes of Palestinians returning to their homes.

The Times reported that Cassis, who had been discussing Switzerland’s funding of UNRWA, said on a radio show that the Swiss should ask questions about what those funds are accomplishing.

He defended his earlier expressed skepticism of the utility of UNRWA saying, “What I said, I said after a long discussion with the director general of UNRWA, so I spoke with full knowledge of the facts.”

In his statement earlier this month, Cassis explained that the number of Palestinians classified as refugees by UNRWA rose from 750, 000 in 1950 to 5 million in 2013 due to that organization’s unique policy of automatically awarding hereditary refugee status. The vast majority of the descendants of refugees are living in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza.

“It provides ammunition to continue the conflict. For as long as Palestinians live in refugee camps, they will want to return to their homeland,” Cassis said, adding that “by supporting UNRWA, we are keeping the conflict alive.”

[Photo: Times of Geneva / YouTube ]