PLO presence in Washington threatened: Palestinians

AFP , Saturday 18 Nov 2017

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: AFP)

The US State Department has refused to renew operating permission for the Palestine Liberation Organisation's office in Washington for the first time since the 1980s, a Palestinian official said Saturday.

The PLO, which the international community sees as representing all Palestinians, must have its permission to operate its premises in the American capital renewed every six months.

"The Palestinian Authority received a letter from the State Department two days ago saying that the Secretary of State had not found enough reasons to keep the office open," Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki told AFP.

"This has not happened in the past, and we have demanded clarifications from the State Department and the White House," he said. "They told us that there would be a meeting of senior legal experts on Monday. Then they would give a clear answer."

The White House, which has called for the office to be closed, has decided to make its presence conditional on permission from the Secretary of State, renewable every six months.

The latest six-month period finished two days ago.

"This is the first time since the 1980s that there has been a delay in signing the renewed permission so the office can stay open," Malki said.

He suggested that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas' latest speech at the UN General Assembly, in which he suggested taking the issue of Israeli settlements to the International Criminal Court, may have been behind the US stance.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat has written to the US administration calling the move "unacceptable, an escalatory step and a political decision that threatens to end the US role in the peace process", Malki said.

He said the PA leadership would meet after Monday to discuss its response.

Although its licence to operate has not been renewed, US law allows the office to operate "in a reduced manner" for 90 days, giving time for negotiations, Malki said.

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