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Palestinians 'freeze' communications with USA over PLO office row

22 November 2017

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) suspended Tuesday its contacts with the response its decision to close the office of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Washington, a senior Palestinian official said. They further explained that the United States should allow the PLO office to continue its work in Washington and also remove the PLO from its list of terrorist organizations in order for contact to be resumed.

Nabil Abu Rdineh said in an official press statement sent to reporters that the PNA Presidency suspended its contacts with the U.S. Administration in protest to closing the offices of the PLO in Washington.

Under the law, the PLO, the main Palestinian umbrella political body, can not operate a Washington office if it urges the ICC to prosecute Israelis for alleged crimes against Palestinians.

A U.S. State Department official cited "certain statements made by Palestinian leaders" about the International Criminal Court as the reason behind the non-renewal.

The US believes Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ran afoul of the law in September when he called on the ICC to investigate and prosecute Israel for alleged war crimes against the Palestinians. "In practice by closing the office they are freezing all meetings and we are making that official", he said. If Trump determines they are, then the mission can reopen.

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According to a weekend report by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, the Palestinian presidency expressed surprise at the US certification decision, first reported by the Associated Press.

The PLO office in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The US has announced on Friday that it would not renew the PLO Washington office permit.

"Conditioning the renewal of the waiver on the Palestinians" sticking to "direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel' is actually superfluous since negotiations are nonexistent, and the current US administration has yet to present any kind of peace initiative", PLO official Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement.

Trump, who has said he wants to strike the "ultimate deal" in negotiating a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians after decades of conflict, now has 90 days to decide if "the Palestinians have entered into direct, meaningful negotiations with Israel", and perform a U-turn on the decision to close the office. It raises questions about the veracity of the anticipated US Middle East peace plan.

Palestinians 'freeze' communications with USA over PLO office row