Italy will resume funding UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees. This was announced by Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, who met with the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Mohammed Mustafa, in Farnesina. Funding for the UN agency was blocked by Italy and dozens of other Western countries in January 2024, following the publication of an Israeli government report accusing some UNRWA employees of participating in the massacre perpetrated by Hamas on October 7, 2023. “I informed Mustafa that the government has planned new funding for the Palestinian population, for a total of 35 million euros, in addition to what has already been done in response to crisis. Among them, 5 million will be allocated to UNRWA,” Tajani said today.

Tajani's announcement

Italy's ambition, added the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is to “play a role as a bridge” and to work so that “this phase of the military conflict in Gaza comes to an end”. Italy's decision to resume funding UNRWA follows work carried out by the Independent Commission chaired by former French Minister Catherine Colonna. “We believe it is necessary to work on the 'two people, two states' solution as part of a broader political process that leads to peace, the result of coordinated regional action, with the strong support of the international community,” Tajani said. . However, in the short term, the priority is to “address both the humanitarian emergency of the Palestinian people and their legitimate aspirations to have their own state, as well as the equally legitimate security needs of Israel.” .

Israel's accusations and funding cutoff

The affair involving UNRWA came to light on January 26, 2024, when Israeli authorities shared with the United Nations a report on the alleged involvement of several agency employees in the attacks against Israel on October 7. “In order to protect the Agency's ability to provide humanitarian assistance, I have made the decision to immediately terminate the contracts of these staff members and to immediately open an investigation to establish the truth. Any UNRWA employee involved in acts of terrorism will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution,” commented Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner General of the UN agency. Faced with the very serious accusations brought by Israel, several Western countries – including Italy – have decided to suspend funding for UNRWA, for fear that it will end up in the hands of Hamas.

The independent commission and doubts about the report

Over time, doubts about the legitimacy of the Israeli accusations grew. At the end of April, the independent commission chaired by Catherine Colonna concluded that the Tel Aviv authorities had not provided sufficient evidence to support the reality of the participation of certain UNRWA employees in the attacks of October 7, 2023. This revelation pushed part of public opinion to loudly demand the immediate resumption of funding for the United Nations agency, especially since the Israeli army's offensive on Rafah, the southernmost city of the Gaza Strip, did so. On May 7, the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella also invited the government to resume funding of UNRWA: “It is necessary to consider the essential function exercised by the United Nations Relief and Employment Agency Palestinian refugees in the Eastern neighborhood and hence the importance of continuing to finance it.”

On the cover: Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani during the Made in Italy Forum at Palazzo Wedekind, Rome, May 22, 2024 (ANSA/Vincenzo Livieri)

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