International

Palestinians slam Trump’s decision to shut PLO consulate

Jerusalem, Sep 10 (IANS) | Publish Date: 9/10/2018 12:55:11 PM IST

Palestinian officials on Monday vowed not to bend to what they called the Trump administrations “bullying tactics” after being informed that their office in Washington would be shut down. Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary General Saeb Erekat said the move -- which leaves them with no formal diplomatic presence in the US -- was a further blow to all Palestinians, as it comes shortly after the Trump administration cut hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

Erekat said he was officially notified of the decision, expected to be announced by US National Security Adviser John Bolton later in the day. He decried the move as a continuation of a policy of “collective punishment” by the US administration, the Washington Post reported.

“These people have decided to stand on the wrong side of history by protecting war criminals and destroying the two state solution,” he said. “I told them if you are worried about courts, you should stop aiding and abetting crimes.”  

“We will take the necessary measures to protect the rights of our citizens living in the US to access their consular services,” he said. Palestine’s de-facto embassy in Washington is affiliated with the PLO, the political organization that controls the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank, but not the Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip. The move appeared to be the latest in a series of pressure tactics by the US against the Palestinian leadership as the Trump administration drafts its long awaited peace deal. 

In a series of blows to the Palestinians, the US recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moved its embassy there, cut funding to the UN agency that deals with Palestinian refugees, and then last week said it would withdraw $25 million in support from hospitals in East Jerusalem. 

The US last year threatened to close the PLO office in Washington after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate and prosecute Israel for war crimes. 

US officials said the decision may be reconsidered if the Palestinians entered into direct negotiations with Israel.  In a speech on Monday, Bolton will threaten to impose sanctions against the ICC if it proceeds with investigations against the US or Israel, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing an advance copy of his speech.

Washington would ban ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the country, sanction their funds in the US financial system and prosecute them in the courts, the report said.

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