Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Palestinian Presidency Warns against Shutting PLO Mission in Washington

Palestinian Presidency Warns against Shutting PLO Mission in Washington

Sunday, 19 November, 2017 - 10:15
A provision in US law says the United States cannot allow the Palestinians to have a Washington office if they back the international court’s move to investigate or prosecute Israeli nationals for alleged crimes against Palestinians. (AP)

The Palestinian Liberation Organization warned the US administration that shutting its Washington mission will lead to the suspension of all contact between Palestinians and Americans.

An official Palestinian source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Palestinian leadership informed the White House that contacts will be suspended during the expected three-month closure period.

Asharq Al-Awsat obtained a copy of a memo sent by PLO executive committee Secretary Saeb Erakat to US peace process envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt and US deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell in which he reiterated the Palestinian warning.

The letter also said that the closure of the PLO office means that the US has effectively withdrawn its sponsorship of the peace process.

It described the American decision as “very dangerous”, adding that it could be a turning point in Palestinian-American ties.

The development came after the US State Department informed its Palestinian counterpart that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not find enough reasons to keep the PLO mission open.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Maliki revealed that the State Department did not renew the work permit of the mission, making it the first time this happens since the 1980s.

“This is unprecedented and we have demanded clarifications from the State Department and White House,” he added.

He expected to receive the response in two days. The Palestinian leadership is set to hold an emergency meeting in wake of the US reply.

The work permit of the PLO office is renewed every six months.

US media reported Tillerson as saying that the Palestinians violated an American law that condones the closure of the PLO mission in Washington if they headed to the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israel for crimes committed against Palestinians.

A source from the State Department accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of committing this violation, reported the Associated Press, when he called on the ICC to investigate Israeli crimes.

Under the law, US President Donald Trump now has 90 days to consider whether the Palestinians are in "direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel." If Trump determines they are, then the mission can reopen, officials said.

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