US announces closure of Washington PLO office

Washington D.C.: The United States announced that it will shut the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mission in Washington.

A statement released by the US State Department said that the PLO office “has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel”, Al Jazeera reported.

“We have permitted the PLO office to conduct operations that support the objective of achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and the Palestinians since the expiration of a previous waiver in November 2017,” US State Department spokeswoman Heather Naurert noted.

“However, the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” she added.

In response, the Palestinian government said that the decision by the United States to close the PLO representative office in Washington is regrettable.

“The government regrets President Trump’s administration taking this decision,” Al Jazeera quoted government spokesperson Yousef al-Mahmoud as he issued a statement.

Condemning the decision, Mahmoud said, “It is a declaration of war on efforts to bring peace to our country and the region”, adding that it would give a green light to Israeli occupiers to continue with their anti-Palestine policies.

Terming the move by the US a “dangerous escalation”, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said that it shows that “the US is willing to disband the international system in order to protect Israeli crimes and attacks against the land and people of Palestine as well as against peace and security in the rest of our region.”

Reiterating that Palestine will not succumb to US threats, Erekat further said, “We reiterate that the rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale, that we will not succumb to US threats and bullying and that we will continue our legitimate struggle for freedom, justice, and independence, including by all political and legal means possible.”

Apart from the decision to shut down the PLO mission, the Trump administration has also decided that a USD 25 million financial aid allocated for the care of Palestinians in hospitals at East Jerusalem will go to somewhere else.

According to reports, the decision will put the health of five million Palestinians at high risk. However, there was no response from the Israel government on the US decision.