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Palestinians ‘freeze’ meetings with US over office row

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RAMALLAH: The Palestinians have frozen all meetings with the United States after it decided to close their representative office in Washington, officials said on Tuesday.

“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,” said Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki.

“In practice by closing the office they are freezing all meetings and we are making that official.”

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

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

ALSO READ: Palestinians say they won’t be blackmailed by US move to close PLO office

But last week the department refused to renew the permit.

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

In 2015, the US Congress introduced a provision that Palestinians may not try to wield influence over the ICC concerning investigations into Israelis.

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.

The declaration does not automatically mean the mission will close.

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.

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Palestinians ‘freeze’ meetings with US over office row

by AFP