US threatens Palestinians with closure of PLO's Washington office
The United States government warned Palestinian officials on Friday that their Washington office will be closed unless they enter peace talks with Israel, US officials quoted by AP said.
By putting the Palestinian Liberation Organization on notice, it is thought that the Trump administration is attempting to secure more leverage in securing an elusive peace deal between the two sides.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson determined that the PLO contravened an obscure provision in a US that says their Washington mission must close if Palestinians attempt to prosecute Israel in the International Criminal Court.
A State Department official said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ran afoul of the provision by calling on the ICC to investigate and prosecute Israelis in September.
Abbas said in his September speech at the UN General Assembly in September that the Palestinians had "called on the International Criminal Court to open an investigation and to prosecute Israeli officials for their involvement in settlement activities and aggressions against our people."
According to the law, if the US government determines the Palestinians have breached that requirement, it triggers a 90-day review period in which the president must decide whether to let the office stay open.
|Palestinian factions have focussed on
reconciliation efforts in recent months [AFP]
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."
The AP source said it was unclear whether US authorities would seek to close the office before the end of the 90-day period.
Peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel have stalled since 2014, when talks led by then-US Secretary of State John Kerry broke down.
Since taking office, Trump has voiced his determination to restart talks between the two sides, however has made a number of major appointments that are strongly pro-Israel.
This has led to much scepticism among Palestinian groups of the US' ability to broker a peace deal, particularly with Israeli settlement activity continuing with impunity.
In recent weeks, Palestinian factions have focussed on internal reconcilliation efforts between rival factions, particularly Hamas and Fatah.