Trump administration takes a step toward closing PLO office

Palestinians warn will freeze US ties if PLO office closed

On Friday, unidentified USA officials told AP that the Trump administration was planning to close the Palestinian office in Washington unless Abbas's administration enters into serious peace talks with Israel. This is the pressure being exerted on this administration from the Netanyahu government. The threat comes as the U.S.is trying to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

The Palestinian foreign minister says the Palestinians won't give in to what he calls "extortion" after a USA threat to close their diplomatic mission in Washington.

Although the United States does not recognize statehood for the Palestinians, President Bill Clinton waived a 1980s-era law that barred them from having an office and allowed the PLO, which formally represents all Palestinians, to open a mission in Washington in 1994. Led by Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and a senior aide, White House officials have been preparing a peace proposal they intend to put forward at an unspecified time. President Obama allowed the Palestinians to fly the flag over their office, upgrading the status of their mission, in 2011.

Although the US does not recognize Palestinian statehood, the PLO maintains a "general delegation" office in Washington that facilitates Palestinian officials' interactions with the USA government.

Malki told the AFP that Palestinian officials had received a letter from Washington two days ago "saying that the secretary of state had not found enough reasons to keep the office open".

"The Palestinian side has not received any ideas, even though many months have passed and in spite of numerous meetings held with the United States side, which disqualifies the USA administration from playing the role of a mediator and removes itself from the job as sponsor of the political process", Rudeineh's statement said.

Palestinians warn will freeze US ties if PLO office closed
Palestinians reject Trump team's reasons for threatening closure of DC PLO office

Riad Malki tells Palestine Radio that the Palestinians are waiting for further communication from the US government.

On Friday, the US State Department said that they could not certify that the PLO was complying with conditions imposed by US Congress, in particular, because of the Palestinians' statements indicating they wanted to try to get the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israelis. Israel vehemently opposes any Palestinian membership in United Nations -related organizations until the two sides reach peace.

Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) Executive Committee, said on Saturday that "the US State Department notified us with an official letter that they can not certify the continuance opening of the PLO office in Washington D.C. due to the fact that we are pursuing and encouraging the ICC (International Criminal Court)". At the same time, the Trump administration has demonstrated a lack of effort in contributing to the peace process, he said.

Netanyahu's office says the closure is a "matter of USA law".

Only a day earlier, department officials had said the office could stay open if President Donald Trump determined that the Palestinians were in serious peace negotiations with Israel.

The provision doesn't explicitly define what would constitute direct or meaningful negotiations.

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