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Brussels, 28 February 2007

Palestinian refugees: Commission announces €264 million for UNRWA’s General Fund 2007-2010

European Commissioner for External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, and Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Karen Koning Abu Zayd, have signed today in Ramallah (West Bank) a joint declaration on Community support to UNRWA for 2007-2010. The Community contribution to the UNRWA General Fund is expected to be €264 million over the next four years, which represents a 7% increase in comparison with the previous period. An initial contribution of €66 million for 2007 is already on its way. The EU’s continuing support to UNRWA is an essential element of the EU strategy for the Middle-East Peace Process.

Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said: “The Palestinian refugees are among those most severely affected by the current socio-economic crisis. UNRWA is more important than ever in this difficult moment. The EU is UNRWA's biggest contributor and we will continue to work together to alleviate the hardship of the refugee population.

She added: "The Palestine refugees issue is high on our agenda for the region and we will ensure that it will be dealt with during final status negotiations."

UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, Karen AbuZayd, thanked the European Commission for its support, saying, “We are very appreciative of the Commission’s helpful engagement in the region, and are pleased to be able to count on such a reliable partner. We are especially grateful for the promised increase in funding, which is critical for UNRWA to be able to address the severe hardship of many of the Palestinian refugees.”

Since 1971 the European Commission has regularly supported UNRWA, becoming one of its largest donors. During the period 2003-2006, the European Commission provided €246 million to UNRWA’s General Fund. The Community contribution represented 27% of UNRWA's funds and EU contribution (Commission and Member States) 58%.

Established in 1949, UNRWA provides today education, healthcare, social services, and emergency aid to 4.3 million Palestinian refugees living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan. It is the largest UN operation in the Middle East. The United Nations General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA's mandate, most recently extending it until June 2008.

Additional information on the EU’s relations with the West Bank and Gaza at:

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