Norwegian FM: Suspending aid to UNRWA punishes all Palestinians

The foreign minister of Norway says suspending funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA, is a collective punishment of the Palestinian people.

Espen Barth Eide gave an exclusive interview to NHK on Monday.

Norway brokered the Oslo Accord between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization toward peace in 1993. As of 2022, the Scandinavian country was the fifth largest donor to UNRWA. It said it continues to support the UN agency while others have suspended their funding.

The minister referred to moves by the United States and others, including Japan, to temporarily suspend funding to the agency following allegations that some of its staff were implicated in Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel. He noted that while the allegations are serious and require investigating, it is wrong to stop funding UNRWA even if the implications turn out to be true.

He said if UNRWA has to stop its activities, then that means punishing Palestinian refugees and people in Gaza who are now in a terrible situation.

Eide referred to the launch of an international group to assess UNRWA's activities. A Norwegian institute is cooperating in the initiative. He said the assessment should be thorough, but it needs to be done soon to break the impasse. He pointed out the urgent need to compile the report, which is due in April.