Palestinians to suspend communication with Trump admin if USA closes PLO office

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The State Department says the Palestine Liberation Organization's office in Washington will close. The official said it was unclear whether the US might close the office before the 90-day period expires, but said the mission remains open at least for now.

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

He accused the US of bowing to pressure from the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, just as he said the Palestinians are "trying to cooperate to achieve the ultimate deal".

The officials weren't authorized to publicly discuss the situation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The department asserts that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ran afoul of the law in September when he called on the ICC to investigate and prosecute Israel for war crimes against the Palestinians. The Israelis and Palestinians are not engaged direct negotiations, but Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and a top White House adviser, and Jason Greenblatt, a senior aide charged with negotiations on Middle East peace, have been working to broker a peace deal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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".

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The Palestinians, though publicly supportive of the USA effort, have been skeptical because Trump's close ties to Israel suggest whatever deal he proposes might be unfavorable to them.

Palestinians living in the US depend upon the diplomatic mission to renew passports, obtain visas, and submit documents and required paperwork to the Palestinian Authority. As NPR has reported, relations between the United Nations agency and the USA soured in 2011 when UNESCO voted to offer full membership to a state of Palestine. In 2011, under the Obama administration, the United States started letting the Palestinians fly their flag over the office, an upgrade to the status of their mission that the Palestinians hailed as historic. Israel vehemently opposes any Palestinian membership in United Nations -related organizations until the two sides reach peace.

A State Department official said that the decision was taken due to "certain statements made by Palestinian leaders about the ICC", referring to the International Criminal Court.

If the office is closed, the PLO will put on hold all communications with the US administration, the organization's secretary general Saeb Erekat said. At the same time, the Trump administration has demonstrated a lack of effort in contributing to the peace process, he said.

He said a USA decision not to recertify the office of the PLO, the main Palestinian negotiating body, was an "unprecedented step" in the history of U.S. The president is allowed to waive the requirement only if he certifies to Congress "that the Palestinians have entered into direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel".

However, the law does not specifically define what constitutes direct or meaningful negations.

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