Former UN envoys urge Pompeo to restore funding for Palestinian aid agency

Former UN envoys urge Pompeo to restore funding for Palestinian aid agency
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Seven former U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations are pressing Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Details on Senate's 0B defense bill | Bill rejects Trump plan to skirt budget caps | Backfills money for border wall | Defense chief says more troops could head to Mideast Trump defense chief: US may send more troops to Middle East amid Iran tensions Pompeo slams 'unconscionable' release of 'American Taliban' MORE to restore funding for the U.N. agency charged with assisting Palestinian refugees. 

In a letter to Pompeo, U.N. envoys from both Republican and Democratic administrations warned that withholding U.S. funding to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) could hinder the aid group's ability to provide much-needed assistance to Palestinians — and endanger the national security of key U.S. allies in the region.

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"This financial gap puts into question the ability of UNRWA to continue to deliver education and healthcare services to millions of people, and has national security ramifications for our closest allies, including Israel and Jordan," the letter reads.

"We urge you to restore U.S. funding to help fill this gap," it says. 

Among the former envoys that signed the letter were Samantha PowerSamantha Jane Power10 factors making Russia election interference the most enduring scandal of the Obama era 'Dear Attorney General Barr': Advice from insiders Heather Nauert is the wrong choice for UN ambassador MORE and Susan Rice, who served under former President Obama, as well as John Negroponte, who served under former President George W. Bush.

The Trump administration has provided only about $60 million in assistance to the UNRWA this year — far short of the $365 million Washington has pledged. 

The U.S. has long been the largest donor to the UNRWA. But funding for the agency was thrown into uncertainty earlier this year amid frustrations from the Trump administration over the lack of progress in peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyWill Trump ignore the Constitution and stay in White House beyond his term? Trump taps ex-State spokeswoman Heather Nauert to help oversee White House fellowships Conservatives slam Omar over tweet on Gaza violence MORE, the current U.S. ambassador to the U.N., suggested earlier this year that the U.S. could cut funding for the Palestinians unless they agreed to return to the negotiating table with Israel.

The envoys' letter on Monday was also sent to Haley and White House national security adviser John Bolton, also a former U.N. ambassador.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert declined on Tuesday to confirm whether Pompeo had received the letter, but said that the U.S. has expressed about the UNRWA's management. She also suggested that the agency should find other sources of funding. 

"UNRWA should find some additional voluntary funding strings so the burden sharing is not just on the United States, but on many other countries as well," Nauert told reporters at a press briefing.

--Updated on July 4 at 9:08 a.m.