Iceland Suspends Palestine Relief Payments Skip to content
bjarni benediktsson
Photo: Golli. Minister for Foreign Affairs Bjarni Benediktsson.

Iceland Suspends Palestine Relief Payments

Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs has suspended payments to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. Opposition MPs criticise the decision, calling it “harsh.” UN Secretary-General António Guterres has appealed to countries who have suspended UNRWA payments to reconsider, saying: “The dire needs of the desperate populations they serve must be met.”

Allegations of participation in October 7 attacks

Founded in 1949, the UNRWA is the United Nations’ main agency supporting the relief and human development of Palestinian regufees in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as East Jerusalem, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. UNRWA runs shelters for the displaced and currently distributes the only aid that Israel is allowing into the Gaza strip.

Iceland has been working with UNRWA for decades. In September last year, Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs signed a contract with the organisation for continued support until 2028.

Several Western countries have temporarily suspended financial support to UNRWA over allegations that some UNRWA staff members were involved in the October 7 attacks on Israel. The staff members in question have already been fired from the organisation, which will also conduct an independent investigation into the matter.

Contrary to ruling from International Court of Justice

“It’s absolutely horrible that we’re taking part in this. And we should follow the Norwegians’ example, who have decided in light of the terrible situation in Gaza, to continue their funding while this investigation is ongoing,” Pirate Party MP Þórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir told RÚV.

“What is absolutely clear is a ruling from the highest court of the international community that humanitarian aid must come to Gaza,” Þórhildur Sunna continued. “And the Icelandic government’s first rection is to stop humanitarian aid to Gaza. It’s absolutely horrible.”

Social Democratic Alliance MP Logi Einarsson also criticised Minister for Foreign Affairs Bjarni Benediktsson’s decision to suspend the payments harsh. “Thirty thousand people work for the organisation, including 13,000 in Gaza and the investigation is on 12 individuals,” Logi stated. “It is therefore a very harsh reaction to punish millions of people in a complete humanitarian crisis and on the verge of starvation.”

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