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Turkish President Erdogan urges protection of UNRWA, calling it ‘lifeline for 6 million refugees’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday urged all “conscientious” countries to protect the UN agency for Palestinian refugees or UNRWA, which he said provided a “lifeline for 6 million refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine.”

Speaking at the World Governments Summit in Dubai, the United Arabic Emirates, Erdogan said, “I would like to express our regret for the growing character assassinations on the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees,” as about a dozen of its staffers have been accused of involvement in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Gaza. The agency has already ordered an investigation of the allegations, but numerous countries have cut off its funding, risking a humanitarian crisis.

Looking at the deep causes of the Gaza conflict, Erdogan said: “Every step taken will remain incomplete unless an independent, sovereign, and geographically integrated Palestinian state is established within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

“If Israel wants lasting peace, it must stop pursuing its expansionist ambitions and accept the existence of an independent Palestinian state,” said Erdogan.

He said that Israel, viewing itself as outside international law, has maintained its policies of “occupation, usurpation, destruction, and massacre for decades.”

“We will never leave our Palestinian brothers abandoned, helpless, or alone,” he added.

Erdogan arrived in the United Arab Emirates early Tuesday as part of a two-day visit to attend the summit.

He will address the three-day summit, with this year’s theme “Shaping Future Governments,” which is bringing together state and government officials and representatives of international organizations, the private sector, academia, civil society, think tanks, the media and businesspeople from various countries.

Since a cross-border incursion by the Palestinian group Hamas on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people, the Israeli offensive into Gaza has killed more than 28,000 people and caused mass destruction and shortages of necessities.

The Israeli war on Gaza has pushed 85% of the territory’s population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice, which in an interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.