UPDATES WITH PALESTINIAN GOVT STATEMENT
By Lubaba Zoukan
RAMALLAH, Palestine (AA) – Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said Monday that the U.S. administration was planning to close the PLO's office — which doubles as the Palestinian embassy — in Washington.
“We have been officially informed that the U.S. administration plans to close our embassy in Washington as a means of punishing us for continuing to work with the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Israeli war crimes,” Erekat said in a statement carried by Palestine’s WAFA news agency.
Erekat described the move as “an escalation that will have serious political consequences by sabotaging the entire international system in order to protect the Israeli occupation and its crimes”.
“This is another blow by the [U.S. President Donald] Trump administration against peace and justice,” he said.
The U.S. administration, Erekat added, “cannot extort the will of the Palestinian people who will continue to pursue their rights through all legal and political channels, especially through the ICC”.
He went on to urge ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to open “an urgent criminal investigation into the crimes of the Israeli occupation”.
The Palestinian leadership, Ereket stressed, would take “measures to help Palestinians living in the U.S. and guarantee their access to consular services” in light of U.S. plans to close the PLO’s office — plans the Wall Street Journal appeared to confirm Monday.
The Ramallah-based Palestinian government, for its part, described the reported U.S. decision as “a declaration of war on the efforts to achieve peace in the region”.
In a Monday statement, Ramallah said the decision “gives a green light to the Israeli occupation to maintain its policies of displacement and settlement against the Palestinian people and their land”.
“It is a blatant challenge to international norms, laws and covenants,” it added.
Last November, the Trump administration threatened to close the PLO’s Washington office after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — in a speech before the UN General Assembly — called for investigations into alleged crimes by Israel.
The U.S. State Department later announced, however, that it would allow the organization's offices to remain open for an additional 90 days.