U.S. to close Palestine mission in Washington

Trump seeks to force an ‘ultimate deal’

Published - September 10, 2018 10:01 pm IST - Ramallah

 The Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington.

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington.

The United States has decided to close the Palestinian mission in Washington in the latest move against them by President Donald Trump, a Palestinian official said on Monday, denouncing it as a “dangerous escalation”.

The closure comes as Mr. Trump seeks to force the Palestinian leadership, which has cut off contact with the White House, to negotiate as his team pursues a plan for peace — what he calls the “ultimate deal”.

The U.S. has also been angered by a Palestinian bid to have Israel investigated for war crimes at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Palestinian officials say the reason given for the closure was their campaign at the ICC.

‘Collective punishment’

“We have been notified by a U.S. official of their decision to close the Palestinian mission to the U.S.,” Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) secretary-general Saeb Erekat said in a statement. “This is yet another affirmation of the Trump administration’s policy to collectively punish the Palestinian people, including by cutting financial support for humanitarian services including health and education.”

Under long-standing U.S. law, permission for the PLO to maintain its mission in Washington must be renewed every six months.

Husam Zomlot, head of the PLO mission in Washington, told journalists in Ramallah that the closure was “to protect Israel from war crimes...”.

Both Mr. Erekat and Mr. Zomlot pledged to push forward with Palestinian efforts at the ICC.

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