US refuses lawmakers' call to close PLO office in Washington

US State Department refuses to close PLO office in Washington despite congressional lawmakers' demand, saying it would harm US-Palestine partnership and efforts for two-state solution between Israel and Palestine

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

US Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hand with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit Palestine

The US State Department stated on Tuesday that it rejects calls issued by 32 congressional lawmakers including Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz to shut down the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)’s office in Washington DC, saying that such a move would hamper US efforts for a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.

Elizabeth Trudeau, a spokesperson for the US State Department, said "We believe that closing the PLO office would be detrimental to our ongoing efforts to calm tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, advance a two-state solution and strengthen the US-Palestinian partnership.”

"We believe the PLO is an important partner, and as the official representative body of the Palestinian people before the international community, the PLO has a role to play in our efforts to advance a two-state solution," she continued.

On Monday, 32 Republican senators sent a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry in which they demanded the closure of the PLO office in the US capital, blaming Palestinians for the recent wave of violence which erupted in Gaza, Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

According to a copy of the letter shared on Cruz's website, the letter reads, "The United States government has an obligation to publicly denounce the PLO's actions and should immediately revoke its waiver."

"Allowing the PLO to maintain an office in Washington DC provides no benefit to the United States or the peace process," it continues.

Trudeau also touched upon the violence saying "We remain deeply concerned about ongoing violence in Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza."

"We completely reject the notion that there is any justification for violence against innocent civilians," she said.

"We continue to stress the importance to Palestinian leadership of strongly opposing violence in all forms, and we've said affirmative steps are needed to calm tensions and reduce violence."

The rapid increase in the death toll of Palestinians and Israelis has come amid a recent series of violence in Israel and occupied Palestinian territories, following Israeli incursions into the Al Aqsa Mosque compound.  

So far, more than 110 Palestinians have been killed by gunfire from Israeli security forces since October 1, and at least 17 Israelis have died in stabbing attacks.

TRTWorld and agencies