PA officials denied visas for UN meeting in New York

PA representative to UN says six PA officials were denied visas by U.S. to attend high-level meeting at UN in New York.

Elad Benari ,

Riyad Mansour
Riyad Mansour

Six Palestinian Authority (PA) officials were denied visas by the United States to attend a high-level meeting on development at the United Nations in New York this week, the PA envoy to the UN said Wednesday, according to AFP.

The six officials from the PA cabinet chief’s office were to present a report on Palestinian efforts to achieve 17 goals set out by the United Nations to end extreme poverty and promote education and health.

"The U.S. consulate denied them visas and of course the Israeli occupying power complicated the matter," Riyad Mansour, the PA representative to the United Nations, was quoted as having told reporters.

The United Nations is holding a political forum this week to take stock of efforts to achieve the sustainable development goals by the set deadline of 2030.

In the absence of the six officials, Mansour made the presentation on behalf of “Palestine”, which has non-member observer status at the United Nations since 2012.

Mansour said he told the gathering that Palestinian authorities were "trying our best" to meet the goals but that the main hurdle in the way of development was "the negative effect of occupation" by Israel.

The ambassador said he planned to lodge a protest with a UN committee that oversees relations with the United States, the host-country of the United Nations.

The U.S. mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Relations between the United States and the PA have soured in recent months, since President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moved the American embassy there.

PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas has refused to consider the Trump administration an honest broker for peace negotiations with Israel since Trump’s move regarding Jerusalem.

He and other PA officials refused to meet Trump’s senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and his Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, when they recently visited the region for talks on Trump’s peace initiative.

The Trump administration has also cut funds to the UN “Palestinian refugee” agency UNRWA. The agency says the cut has left it struggling to fill a major budget gap for its education and health programs.

The U.S. threatened to shut down the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) mission in New York back in November, when then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent a letter to the Palestinian leadership warning that the delegation might be shut down as a result of Abbas' call on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Israel and prosecute Israelis.

Later, however, State Department officials said that it was decided to keep the delegation open for at least 90 days, and at the end of that period, Trump could announce that he is prolonging its activity because it is vital for supporting "meaningful" Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) recently urged the Administration to begin taking the necessary steps and instituting the necessary legal action to close the PLO office.