PNA suspends contacts with USA over closure of PLO Washington office

PNA suspends contacts with USA over closure of PLO Washington office

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has announced it is freezing all ties with the U.S. as a result of the State Department's announcement on Friday that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) can no longer operate its Washington office.

A report Saturday said the Trump administration threatened to close down the group's office in Washington.

By closing the office in Washington, DC, the USA itself made any contacts with the Palestinian Authority impossible, Riyad al-Malki told AFP.

"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.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has determined that Palestinian officials violated an obscure USA law that prescribes closing PLO offices should they petition the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute Israelis for crimes against Palestinian people, AP reported citing U.S. officials.

United States officials cited comments by Abbas about possibly taking Israel to the International Criminal Court.

"We have also called on the International Criminal Court, as is our right, to open an investigation and to prosecute Israeli officials" over Israeli settlement activity, he said.

Closing the PLO office may have been a strong-arm tactic to force the Palestinians to the negotiating table.

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Al-Malki said Tuesday that the Trump administration is already "reconsidering" its decision concerning the PLO office in Washington following the statements made by the Palestinian Authority, as reported by the Israeli Haaretz daily. In 1993, due to the Oslo peace process, Congress allowed for the PLO to open a mission in DC, as long as it stayed faithful to its commitments in the peace talks.

That was the case until 2011, when the Palestinians joined UNESCO and declared they wanted full membership status in the UN.

"We are not cutting off relations with the PLO", that statement said. But Abbas' response has turned the move into a diplomatic game of chicken - Trump still has a 90-day window to override the closure before it takes effect and communication is cut off.

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