State Department: Communication with PLO not frozen

State Department spokeswoman says U.S. wants PLO to keep its Washington mission open despite recent threats to shut it down.

Elad Benari ,

State Department building
State Department building

The State Department on Tuesday disputed the Palestinian Authority’s claims that it had suspended meetings with the U.S. following a quarrel with President Donald Trump's administration over the future of their representative office in Washington.

"In our view, communications are not frozen,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert at a daily press briefing when asked about the announcement.

The PA’s announcement came several days after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson put the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on notice that he would shut down its mission in Washington, DC, unless the PA sits down for peace negotiations with Israel.

When questioned on the closure by reporters, Nauert said, "I think we'd like for them to be able to keep it open."

"Shutting down an office -- that's not what we are talking about today. There are some conversations underway," she said, according to AFP, adding that Tillerson was examining the issue.

"We're in contact with the Palestinians. As far as I'm aware, the offices" are "open and running right now," stressed Nauert.

The notice to the PLO came after Tillerson determined that the Palestinians ran afoul of a provision in a U.S. law that says the PLO mission must close if the Palestinians try to get the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute Israelis for crimes against Palestinians.

A State Department official said that in September, PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas crossed that line by calling on the ICC to investigate and prosecute Israelis.

Nauert described the decision to close the mission as a "technical" one in her remarks on Tuesday.

As for the broader efforts to secure a settlement between Israel and the PA, Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and peace envoy remain committed to the cause, she said.

"We are not giving up on the plan for peace. We are not doing that. I mean, you know how important that is to this administration, to Mr. Kushner and also to Jason Greenblatt as well,” stressed Nauert.

"So we're continuing to push ahead for a comprehensive peace plan. The Israelis and the Palestinians have both said that they want that as well."

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.