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Arab Efforts to Contain Palestinian-US Crisis

Arab Efforts to Contain Palestinian-US Crisis

Monday, 20 November, 2017 - 07:15
The State Department says the office of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Washington, DC, must close under a little-known provision in US law that forbids it from requesting Israelis be prosecuted for crimes against Palestinians. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

US threats of closing the office of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Washington have triggered a flurry of diplomatic activity, particularly after the Arab League said on Sunday that its Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit has discussed with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki the repercussions of Washington’s decision.

Aboul Gheit has also informed Maliki of his contacts with the US to reach a solution in a way that keeps US-Palestinian communication channels open, especially at a time when "everyone is anticipating a US initiative to resume Middle East peace talks,” Arab League spokesperson Mahmoud Afifi said.

According to Afifi, the American “move could seriously harm the peace process and the US role in the talks between the Palestinians and Israelis.”

An Arab League source said Washington’s threat to close the PLO office does not serve the peace process. Instead, it ends the US role of a peace sponsor and makes it biased towards Israel, which has always imposed a fait accompli.

For his part, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry telephoned senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Saturday night.

According to Ahmad Abu Zeid, a spokesperson for the Egyptian ministry of foreign affairs, Shoukry stressed the need for direct communication between the Palestinian Authority and the US, particularly at the current stage, during which the international community hopes for the resumption of negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel.

The spokesperson added that both men also discussed “developments to renewing the permit granted by the US to the PLO office in Washington, while Shoukry listened to the Palestinian evaluation regarding details of the US decision, its setting and its expected repercussions.”  

On Friday, the US State Department announced it would close the PLO office in Washington because the Palestinians have disobeyed the US law by calling for the prosecution of the Israelis by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

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