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Palestinian refugee agency UN ‘complaints’ follow Cassis remarks on Palestine

Palestinian carrying sack of flour from UNRWA

As a donor, Switzerland says it has a right to participate in debate about the future of the Palestinian aid agency UNRWA. 

(Keystone)

High-level representatives at the United Nations have complained to the Swiss mission in New York after foreign affairs minister Ignazio Cassis criticised UN policy on Palestine, according to two Swiss Sunday newspapers. 

These include the representatives of Jordan and Lebanon, reported Le Matin Dimanche and Sonntagszeitung papers. High-ranking UN representatives have also questioned Switzerland’s candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council, planned for 2023/24, they wrote. 

Switzerland's foreign affairs ministry confirmed there were “contacts after the declarations of Federal Councillor Cassis” but declined to tell the papers more. 

In a newspaper interview last month, Cassis said the UN Palestinian Relief and Works Agency UNRWA had become part of the problem by maintaining refugee camps. More work should be done to integrate refugees into other countries rather than give them hope of a return to Palestinian territories, he argued. “By supporting the UNRWA, we keep the conflict alive. It’s a perverse logic,” he said. 

+ Read more reactions to Cassis’s comments

The Federal Council has stressed that Swiss support for UNRWA is legitimate, but that as a donor Switzerland also has the right to contribute to the debate about UNRWA’s future. 

But Social Democrat parliamentarian Carlo Sommaruga says Cassis has “harmed the reputation of Switzerland” and compromised the Swiss candidacy for a UN Security Council seat. Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter of the Christian Democratic Party, who chairs the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, has also expressed “concern”, reported the papers. 

swissinfo/jc

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