Saudi Arabia a strategic partner in UN support for Palestine refugees, amid concern over escalating violence
New York: Youth empowerment and employment figured heavily in discussions between Saudi officials and the head of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), held in the kingdom last weekend.
In a first since 2020, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini visited Saudi Arabia on 28 and 29 January at the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Longtime Saudi solidarity with Palestine refugees topped the agenda of his talks with the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Waleed ElKhereji, and the Supervisor-General of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, Dr. Abdallah al Rabeea.
Recent escalation concerning
A later meeting with the Chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, His Royal Highness Prince Turki Al-Faisal, focused on the fragility of the situation in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the worrying escalation last week.
A terrorist attack outside a Jerusalem synagogue on Friday left at least seven Israelis dead and three injured, while nine Palestinians were killed during an Israeli raid targeting suspected militants on a West Bank refugee camp the previous day.
“The concerning events that are unfolding in the West Bank are a stark reminder that the stability of the region is often hanging by a thread,” said Mr. Lazzarini.
“We at UNRWA look forward to working closely with Saudi Arabia, as a strategic partner, on ensuring that the lives of the refugees, particularly children and youth, continue to be transformed positively through education, healthcare and other services that the agency offers.”
Supporting critical services
The Commissioner-General again acknowledged how the much-needed Saudi contribution of $27 million at the end of last year was directly allocated to UNRWA’s core programme budget and helped maintain critical services to Palestine refugees.
All discussions during his two-day mission explored ways for the UN agency to co-operate with Saudi entities on youth empowerment and employment.
Mr. Lazzarini emphasized the importance for UNRWA to work with Saudi Arabia as a strategic partner, particularly in areas such as youth development and empowerment, as well as promoting regional peace and stability.
“Education and modern-day skills are the best tools that the international community can offer to young Palestine refugees,” he said. “By helping them build their future, we would also be sending them a message that they are not alone.”