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Unrwa Swiss suspend payments to Palestinian refugee agency

Pierre Krähenbühl and Ignazio Cassis

Foreign Minister Cassis (right, together with UNRWA chief commissioner Krähenbühl during a visit in Jordan ) put into doubt the work of the Palestinian refugee agency last year.  

(© Ti-press)

The Swiss foreign ministry has decided to temporarily stop payments to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) amid claims of misconduct among its top management.

The ministry was informed of the situation by the agency’s commissioner-general, Pierre Krähenbühl, on Monday according to SRF public radio.

A confidential report by UNRWA’s ethics office claims that members of top management have abused their authority, with charges including nepotism, discrimination and sexual misconduct. The report alleges that Krähenbühl claimed daily allowances despite being away from UNRWA headquarters in Jerusalem.

Krähenbühl, a Swiss national, has been at the UNRWAexternal link since 2014, has apparently pledged full cooperation with the investigating authorities.

Switzerland has been a member of the agency since its beginning in 1949 and has paid about CHF20 million ($20 million) in contributions for this year.

The agency has already been under intense pressure since one of its main sponsors, the United States, cut funding drastically last year.

The Swiss foreign minister, Ignazio Cassis, has also publicly criticised the role of the UNRWA.

The agency has an annual budget $1.2 billion to support more than five million Palestinian refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank.

swissinfo.ch/urs

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