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Palestinians say US unqualified to be mediator amid office closure row

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 20, 2017
Kevin Hagen (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP)
"What is the use of holding any meetings with them when they close our office?" Riyad al-Malki said to AFP

A leading member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) on Tuesday questioned the United State's ability to act as an unbiased mediator in an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, following a US closure of the PLO office in Washington.

Executive Committee PLO member Ahmed Majdalani said in a telephone conversation with Palestinian news site Watan, that the US, "rather than advancing a vision to revive the peace process, made this decision which is not only backward in the framework of Palestinian-American relations but within the framework of the political process as a whole."

Criticizing the US for not clarifying their position on the illegality of settlements nor renewing their commitment to the two-state solution, Majdalani continued that, "the US has punished those who are committed to international legality and has reward non-compliance."

The Palestinians on Tuesday morning froze all meetings with the United States after its decision to close their representative office.

"In practice by closing the office they are freezing all meetings and we are making that official," Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki told AFP.

A spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) confirmed that it had received instructions from Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas "regarding closing down all communication lines with the Americans."

The State Department recently threatened to shut down the Palestine Liberation Organization's office in Washington DC unless it enters into “direct, meaningful negotiations with Israel.”

JIM WATSON (AFP)

The move came as a response to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s refusal on Friday to certify that the Palestinians are in compliance with a 2015 Congressional mandate, which restricts the Palestinian Authority from pursuing prosecution of Israelis at the International Criminal Court (ICC). As a penalty, the law provides for closure of the PLO mission to the United States, located in Washington, DC.

US President Donald Trump now has a 90-day window to decide whether "the Palestinians have entered into direct, meaningful negotiations with Israel" -- in which case he can waive the requirement to shutter the office.

"What is the use of holding any meetings with them when they close our office? Our meetings begin from our office, and the arrangements are there," Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki told AFP.

SAUL LOEB (AFP/File)

According to a State Department official, the decision follows moves by the Palestinians to bring Israel before the International Criminal Court. Back in September, during his speech to the UN General Assembly, PA President Mahmoud Abbas urged the ICC to “open an investigation and to prosecute Israeli officials for their involvement in settlement activities and aggressions against our people.”

The US consulate in Jerusalem declined to comment on Tuesday, instead referring back to a statement on Saturday which said it was hopeful that any "closure will be short-lived."

"We are not cutting off relations with the PLO," that statement said.

For now, the PLO’s decision to cut off all communication with the Trump administration puts a damper on the efforts of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to advance a Middle East peace deal.

(Staff with AFP)

Comments

(2)

Trump does not play taqiyya.

Palestinians are mad because there US won't support their terrorism anymore

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