• 22 nations vow more help for Palestine refugees


    JAKARTA: Representatives of 22 nations pledged their support for Palestinian development on Saturday, but the United Nations (UN) urged more action for refugees “in need of aid” in an “increasingly dire” situation.

    The Conference on Cooperation among East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development (CEAPAD) in Jakarta ended with Japan—one of the world’s biggest donors to the Palestinian Territories—pledging $200 million, most in financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority and for infrastructure development.

    But the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said in a stateament that more attention should be paid to Palestinian refugees, describing appalling conditions in the Syrian camp Yarmouk.

    “I have observed many conflicts in my career, but I have seldom encountered as much destruction, hunger, fear and despair as I saw in Yarmouk this week,” UNRWA commissioner-general Filippo Grandi said, adding Yarmouk had become “a symbol of the tragedies accumulating for Palestinian refugees.”

    UNRWA estimates the funding needs for Palestinian refugees to reach $1.5 billion in 2014. Last year’s combined contributions to UNRWA by countries represented at CEAPAD, excluding Japan, amounted to $2 million.

    Grandi urged Asian nations to increase their support for the UNRWA, which said it had delivered aid to five million refugees.

    Other aid organizations have struggled to reach Yarmouk on the outskirts of Damascus, which has been bombarded for almost a year.

    The CEAPAD participants reiterated in a joint statement their commitment to the ongoing Middle East peace process, with co-chairs Indonesia and Japan expressing hope for a two-state solution in the near future.

    The conference came after US Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that a full Middle East peace deal, which he is attempting to broker, will likely slip past the April 29 deadline. Kerry coaxed the two sides back to the negotiating table in late July after a three-year hiatus.



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