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US ups pressure on Palestinians, closes PLO's mission in Washington

US ups pressure on Palestinians, closes PLO's mission in Washington

The United States on Monday announced to shutter the Palestinians' mission in Washington, adding further pressure on them to enter peace talks with Israel.

State Department spokeswoman Heath Nauert accused the Palestine Liberation Organisation of refusing to support negotiations while a Palestinian official called the move a “dangerous escalation” of tensions in the region.

“We have permitted the PLO office to conduct operations that support the objective of achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and the Palestinians since the expiration of a previous waiver in November 2017,” said Nauert.

“However, the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” Nauert said.

“To the contrary, PLO leadership has condemned a US peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the US government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise,” she said.

The announced closure was the latest move by President Donald Trump to push the Palestinians into peace talks, toward what the US president has termed the “ultimate deal.” But the Palestinians have accused the Trump administration of being one-sided in its approach.

“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,” PLO secretary-general Saeb Erekat said in a statement.

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