US tells Palestinians they are shutting PLO office in Washington

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Office is seen in Washington, DC. (AFP)
Updated 10 September 2018
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US tells Palestinians they are shutting PLO office in Washington

  • The United States will close the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) mission
  • Senior official Saeb Erekat said: “We continue to call upon the International Criminal Court to open its immediate investigation into Israeli crimes.”

RAMALLAH: The US has notified the Palestinians it’s closing their mission in Washington, a senior official said Monday, the latest in a series of American blows to the Palestinians.
The Trump administration notified the Palestinians last year it will shutter their office in Washington unless they enter serious peace talks with Israel.
“We have been officially informed that the US administration will close our embassy in Washington as a punishment for continuing to work with the International Criminal Court against Israeli war crimes,” Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said.
“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,” he said.
The move comes after several financial measures the Trump administration has taken toward the Palestinians.
The US has announced it is ending its decades of funding for the UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees, slashing bilateral US aid for projects in the West Bank and Gaza and cutting funding to hospitals in Jerusalem that serve Palestinians.
A provision in a US law says the PLO mission must close if the Palestinians try to get the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israelis for crimes against Palestinians.
Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in November that the Palestinians crossed that line two months prior.
Although the Israelis and Palestinians are not engaged in active, direct negotiations, Trump’s administration has been working to mediate a peace deal that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Led by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a senior aide, White House officials have been preparing a peace proposal they intend to put forward at an unspecified time.
Trump has promised to pursue the “ultimate deal” between the Palestinians and Israel. However, such a deal is unlikely given Palestinian mistrust of his administration.
The Palestinians were angered by Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the US Embassy there. They have since rejected the US as peace broker.
The Palestine Liberation Organization is the group that formally represents all Palestinians. Although the US does not recognize Palestinian statehood, the PLO has maintained a “general delegation” office in Washington that facilitates Palestinian officials’ interactions with the US government.
The United States allowed the PLO to open a mission in Washington in 1994, a move that required then-President Bill Clinton to waive a law that said the Palestinians couldn’t have an office. In 2011, under the Obama administration, the United States started letting the Palestinians fly their flag over the office, an upgrade to the status of their mission that the Palestinians hailed as historic.
There was no immediate comment from Israeli government officials.


Iran starts Gulf war games, to test submarine-launched missiles

Updated 22 February 2019
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Iran starts Gulf war games, to test submarine-launched missiles

  • More than 100 vessels taking part in the three-day war games in an area stretching from the Strait of Hormuz to the Indian Ocean
  • Iran has expanded its missile program, particularly its ballistic missiles

DUBAI: Iran on Friday began large-scale naval drills at the mouth of the Gulf, which will feature its first submarine cruise missile launches, state media reported, at a time of rising tensions with the United States.
More than 100 vessels were taking part in the three-day war games in a vast area stretching from the Strait of Hormuz to the Indian Ocean, the state news agency IRNA reported.
“The exercise will cover confronting a range of threats, testing weapons, and evaluating the readiness of equipment and personnel,” navy commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, said in remarks carried by state television.
“Submarine missile launches will be carried out ... in addition to helicopter and drone launches from the deck of the Sahand destroyer,” Khanzadi said.
State media said Iran would be testing its new domestically built Fateh (Conqueror) submarine which is armed with cruise missiles and was launched last week.
Iranian officials in the past have threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping route, in retaliation for any hostile US action, including attempts to halt Iranian oil exports through sanctions.
US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program last May and reimposed sanctions on Tehran. He said the deal was flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.
Iran has expanded its missile program, particularly its ballistic missiles.
Iran launched its domestically made destroyer Sahand in December, which official say has radar-evading stealth properties.
The USS John C. Stennis entered the Gulf in December, ending a long absence of US aircraft carriers in the strategic waterway.
Iran displayed a new cruise surface-to-surface missile with a range of 1,300 kilometers earlier this month during celebrations marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Western experts say Iran often exaggerates its weapons capabilities, although there are concerns about its long-range ballistic missiles.