The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, concluded a four-day official visit to Spain on Friday.
The visit took place amidst escalating violence in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and in Gaza, and allowed the Commissioner-General to brief government officials about the developments and thank Spain for its consistent support to Palestine refugees and to the work of UNRWA.
It was also an opportunity to raise awareness on the many challenges facing Palestine refugees in the Middle East at a particularly volatile time in the region.
Lazzarini met with the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Arancha González Laya, the Secretary of State for International Cooperation, Ángeles Moreno Bau and the Director of Spanish Agency (AECID) Magdy Martínez-Solimán in Madrid.
He also met the President of the Basque country (Lehendakari), Iñigo Urkullu, the Counselor for Equality, Justice and Social Policies, Beatriz Artolazabal and the Director of Basque Agency for International Cooperation, Paul Ortega.
During the same visit, he met with the President of the Autonomous Community of Valencia Ximu Puig, the Government Adviser of Social Welfare, Rosa Pérez, the General Director of International Cooperation Valencia, Xelo Angulo and the Mayor of Valencia, Joan Ribo. He also met with the President of the Parliament and other parliamentarians in all three cities.
“I have conveyed to the UNRWA Commissioner-General my appreciation for the outstanding work that UNRWA and its staff in support of more than 5.7 million Palestine refugees,” said the Spanish Foreign Minister. “I also reassured him that the Agency can continue to count on the full support of Spain.”
The Commissioner-General had a fruitful exchange with Raquel Marti, the Executive Director of the National Committee of UNRWA in Spain, her team and Board of Directors which carries out the valuable work of resource mobilization and outreach in Spain in support of the Agency.
Lazzarini also held a conference at Casa Árabe in Madrid attended by participants from the Spanish diplomatic, academic, non-profit and media sectors and ended his mission attending a Photo Exhibition at the Royal Botanical Gardens of Madrid entitled “Feeling Gaza” organized by the Spanish National Committee for this occasion.
“With the tragic developments in the Middle East this past week, the meetings with officials and representatives of civil society in Spain was a timely and much needed reminder of what a strategic and positive partnership is. At a time of increased attacks against UNRWA, the support that everybody I met on this mission reiterated towards the Agency and the rights of Palestine refugees is very important”, he said.
Spain is a key partner for UNRWA and has been contributing to the Agency since 1958. Spain is also an AdCom member since 2005. Both the central and regional governments are strong supporters of UNRWA financially and politically, reflecting the overwhelming societal sympathy for the Palestine refugees. Spain is also one of the two countries where UNRWA has established a National Committee to support the Agency’s advocacy and fundraising efforts. Regional and private contributions in Spain are channeled through the National Committee.