AMMAN: Saudi Arabia on Sunday donated $27 million to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to support the organization’s operations in the Palestinian territories.

The donation came as part of the Kingdom’s 2018/2019 pledge to support the agency’s core services with a donation of $50 million. The contribution is part of a larger pledge by the Kingdom, which has been one of the agency’s top donors for decades, to help the UNRWA continue to provide critical services to the 5.6 million Palestine refugees in the region.

The memorandum of understanding was signed by Saudi Ambassador to Jordan Nayef Al-Sudairi, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, and Dr. Ahmad Abu Holie, member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and head of the Department of Refugee Affairs.

Speaking to Arab News, Al-Sudairi said that the Saudi presence was and still is at the heart of the Palestinian cause, as the Kingdom’s position on the Palestinian issue is considered one of the main constants of Saudi foreign policy since its establishment by King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al-Saud, who was the first supporter and advocate for the Palestinian people.

“Saudi Arabia’s firm stance toward the Palestinian cause has continued until the rule of King Salman and his crown prince. The king has announced the official Saudi position on numerous occasions, which was reiterated recently by the Kingdom’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, at the 77th UNGA in New York a few weeks ago, that the Palestinian issue is at the forefront of the Kingdom’s concerns, and the Kingdom supports the Palestinian people to obtain their legitimate rights, including the establishment of their independent state based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” he added.

“Support from the Kingdom and its institutions contributed to the ability of the UNRWA to maintain its vital services for Palestine refugees over decades,” said Lazzarini. He added that the agency has experienced difficulty maintaining funding due to the unpredictability of donors, and that over the past decade, “the attention on this part of the world has declined.”

The Kingdom has donated more than $1 billion to the UNRWA in the past decade, enabling the agency to continue to provide essential services to Palestine refugees.

“What the agency has experienced over the last 10 years has stagnated the overall resources. The donation will help us keep our activities running but the struggle will continue,” said Lazzarini, adding: “Events like today give us hope to succeed, to go through, but this is not an answer to a longer-term (solution). What we need to see is a reactivation of the peace process.

“This support by the Kingdom is one of many as part of its commitment to the Palestinian cause and refugees in Palestine,” said Abu Holie, adding: “The contribution came at a time when we’ve seen in the past year a decline in aid by some countries and others who retracted their donations. The donation by the Kingdom will contribute to providing services and we call on other countries to meet their commitments.”

Since 1999, contributions provided by Saudi Arabia and its humanitarian and development entities have exceeded $5.2 billion, including support to the Palestinian Authority and direct aid to various sectors, including health, education, infrastructure and more.

“Saudi Arabia and Jordan have been devoted to supporting the Palestinian cause in various fields for decades, through partnerships with the UNRWA, Jordan, Palestine and other parties. The historical cooperation relationship with the UNRWA is to reaffirm our continuous support for its services and appreciation of its role toward supporting Palestine refugees,” said Al-Sudairi.