US shutters Palestine Liberation Organization's mission

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. on Monday announced the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) Washington diplomatic mission as the Donald Trump administration prepares to roll out its Middle East peace plan.

The State Department announced the decision, saying "the PLO office in Washington will close at this point."

The agency said "the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel," and pointed to Palestinian calls for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Israel.

The office had served as Palestine's de facto embassy in Washington.

National Security Advisor John Bolton is expected to address the decision during a speech before a conservative group in the nation's capital later Monday.

Palestinian officials continue to deny any role for the U.S. in peace talks with Israel after Trump unilaterally declared Jerusalem to be Israel's capital last year, upending long-held underpinnings of peace talks which had maintained the issue was to be determined as part of final status negotiations.

Prior to the formal announcement of the mission's closure, Palestinian officials 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 Trump administration against peace and justice," said PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat.