On Wednesday 22 March, Development Cooperation Minister Armand De Decker received Ms Karen Koning AbuZayd, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
During their talks, Ms AbuZayd briefed the minister on the activities of her organisation and on the current political situation in the Palestinian territories following the recent election victory for Hamas, and Minister De Decker voiced some serious concerns, mainly regarding the new Palestinian government's future attitude towards its international obligations (the renunciation of violence, recognition of Israel and integration into existing peace plans) and also its potential impact on the stability of the territories, the humanitarian situation and the living conditions of the Palestinian people.
Minister De Decker pointed out that Hamas is at a crossroads and will have to assume its full responsibilities by opting for the path of reason, to the great benefit of the needy Palestinian people, now and in the future, and by setting its sights on regional stability.
The Palestinian territories are partners of bilateral Belgian cooperation. Belgian Development Cooperation also participates in funding the normal activities of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), providing mainly food aid and emergency aid. The UNRWA was set up in 1949 and conducts humanitarian missions. It also makes a major contribution towards development by implementing programmes focussing on education, healthcare, micro-financing and social services. The agency provides jobs for more than 25,000 Palestinians.