US wants PLO’s Washington office to stay open

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Office is seen in Washington, DC, on November 21, 2017. Palestinian officials announced they had suspended meetings with the US, following a quarrel with President Donald Trump's administration over the future of their representative office in Washington. (AFP)
Updated 22 November 2017
0

US wants PLO’s Washington office to stay open

WASHINGTON: The US wants the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to keep its Washington office open and is in talks with Palestinian officials about the issue despite a US decision that could trigger its closure, the State Department said on Tuesday.
A State Department official on Saturday said under US law, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson could not renew a certification for the PLO office to operate “given certain statements made by the Palestinian leaders about the International Criminal Court (ICC).”
The PLO reacted with fury and claimed to have broken off ties with the Americans — imperiling President Donald Trump’s stated goal of a negotiated Middle East peace deal.
Under long-standing law, the PLO, the main Palestinian umbrella political body, cannot operate a Washington office if it urges the ICC to prosecute Israelis for alleged crimes against Palestinians.
In September, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the UN called on the ICC “to open an investigation and to prosecute Israeli officials for their involvement in settlement activities and aggressions against our people.”
When questioned on the closure by reporters, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert went as far as to say: “I think we’d like for them to be able to keep it open.”
Speaking at the press briefing, Nauert said the matter was under discussion and that, as far as she knew, the office was up and running for now.
“We are in contact with the Palestinian officials about the status of that PLO office. I don’t want reporters to get ahead of themselves in reporting on this,” she added, suggesting that talk of the office’s closure might be premature.
“Shutting down an office — that’s not what we are talking about today. There are some conversations underway,” she said.
Tillerson was examining the issue, she said, insisting: “In our view, communications are not frozen.
Nauert added that Tillerson had made his decision in close consultation with the White House, but added that discussions about the office in Washington continue.
“There are some conversations underway. The secretary is taking a look at this, and we’ll get back to you when we have more,” she said.
According to a weekend report by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, the Palestinian presidency expressed surprise at the US certification decision, first reported by the Associated Press.
WAFA quoted Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki as saying that Palestinian leaders would not give in to blackmail or pressure regarding the operation of the PLO office or negotiations on an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
It was not immediately clear what effect the State Department’s move might have on the Trump administration’s efforts to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which are led by Jared Kushner, the US president’s son-in-law and senior adviser.
The PLO office in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A source familiar with the matter said that the office remained open and that Arab television channels had taken footage of the Palestinian ambassador entering the building this week.


Another Turkish journalist jailed over Gulen links

Ali Unal was chief writer at the now-defunct Zaman newspaper. (Supplied)
Updated 15 November 2018
0

Another Turkish journalist jailed over Gulen links

  • About 250 people were killed in the coup attempt and in the subsequent crackdown, Turkey jailed 77,000 people pending trial

ISTANBUL: A court sentenced Turkish journalist Ali Unal to 19 years in jail on Wednesday on a charge of being a leader in the network accused of carrying out a failed coup in July 2016, the state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.
The ruling followed a sustained crackdown in the wake of the coup attempt, but also came amid steps by the government that appear aimed at improving ties with the US and Europe, strained by the sweeping campaign of arrests.
Unal was chief writer at the now-defunct Zaman newspaper, widely seen as the flagship media outlet for the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara says orchestrated the attempted putsch. Gulen denies any involvement.
Speaking by video link from jail to the court in the western province of Usak, Unal denied being a founder or leader of the network and denied involvement in the putsch, Anadolu said.
“I have no link with any terrorist organization,” he said, adding that he had spoken five or six times to Gulen and that he was being tried over his writing.
He was sentenced to 19 years and six months for “leading an armed terrorist group.” Six other Zaman journalists were convicted on similar charges in July.
About 250 people were killed in the coup attempt and in the subsequent crackdown, Turkey jailed 77,000 people pending trial. Authorities also sacked or suspended 150,000 civil servants and military personnel and shut down dozens of media outlets.Illustrating the scale of its actions, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday his ministry had dismissed 23 percent of its career personnel over links to Gulen.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said some journalists helped nurture terrorists with their writing, and that the crackdown is needed to ensure stability in a NATO member bordering Syria, Iraq and Iran. Critics say Erdogan has used the crackdown to muzzle dissent and increase his own power. The European Union, which Turkey aspires to join, has also criticized the crackdown. The verdict came a day after another court threw out the conviction of former Wall Street Journal reporter Ayla Albayrak, annulling a verdict sentencing her to two years in prison in absentia on charges of carrying out propaganda for Kurdish militants.