Wednesday, 17 January, 2018

PNA suspends contacts with U.S. over closure of PLO Washington office

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The Palestinians have frozen all meetings with the United States after it made a decision to close their representative office in Washington, officials said on Tuesday.

A State Department official on Saturday said under US law, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson could not renew a certification for the PLO office to operate "given certain statements made by the Palestinian leaders about the International Criminal Court".

The Palestinians have severed all contacts with officials from the Trump administration after it chose to close their official representation in Washington, dealing a blow to any potential resurrection of peace talks with Israel.

In 2015, the US Congress introduced a provision that Palestinians may not try to wield influence over the ICC concerning investigations into Israelis.

Under the law, Trump now has 90 days to consider whether the Palestinians are in "direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel".

Before the change to the law, the president could keep the PLO mission open merely by certifying that waiving the ban on Palestinian representation in the United States was in the U.S. national interest.

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"We are not cutting off relations with the PLO", that statement said.

It was not immediately clear what effect the State Department's move might have on the Trump administration's efforts to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which are led by Jared Kushner, the USA president's son-in-law and senior adviser.

The Trump administration is reconsidering its position on closing the Palestinian mission in Washington, said Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki on Tuesday morning.

The Trump administration is working on a US plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace in an effort led by the president's Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner, a senior White House advisor, and special negotiator Jason Greenblatt.

"Meetings with the American side will be useless while they are closing our office in Washington", he said, adding "the meetings between us and the Americans are basically coordinated through our PLO office there", he said. "The Trump administration should stop pressuring Palestine to abandon support for a credible, long overdue path to justice".

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