US may cut funding to UN agencies

UNITED NATIONS • The United States is considering whether to cut funding to two UN agencies and the chemical weapons watchdog after the Palestinians joined the organisations, a US official says.

In a move aimed at boosting their international profile, the Palestinians have joined the UN trade development organisation UNCTAD, industrial development agency UNIDO and the Chemical Weapons Convention which is upheld by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

US legislation bars funding for UN agencies or affiliates that grant membership to Palestine, which has the status of a non-member observer state at the United Nations.

"It has been the consistent position of the United States that efforts by the Palestinians to join international organisations are premature and counterproductive," a US official said on Wednesday.

"We will review the application of US legislative restrictions related to Palestinian membership in certain UN agencies and organisations," the official added.

The Palestinian move comes amid a rift with US President Donald Trump's administration over its decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Palestinians want to make East Jerusalem the capital of their promised future state.

The US withdrew some funding for Unesco when the Palestinians joined the cultural and education agency in 2011 and last year pulled out of the agency altogether.

The Trump administration has also cut funds to the UN Palestinian refugee agency, leaving UNRWA struggling to fill a major budget gap for its education and health programmes.

The Palestinians angered Israel when they became a state-party to the International Criminal Court in 2015.

The UN granted Palestine non-member observer state status in 2012, but an upgrade to full membership would require backing from the Security Council - an unlikely outcome, given the near-certainty of a US veto.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2018, with the headline 'US may cut funding to UN agencies'. Print Edition | Subscribe