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PLO's Ashrawi meets with US officials in DC

March 12, 2016 8:29 P.M. (Updated: March 17, 2016 12:48 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi conducted a series of meetings this week in Washington, D.C., to discuss the latest political developments in the occupied Palestinian territory and the escalation of Israeli violations of international law, a PLO press release said on Saturday.

In a meeting with US officials working on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ashrawi called for the United States to support an initiative to organize an international peace conference launched by the French foreign ministry in January.

She provided a briefing on the deteriorating conditions in the Gaza Strip, stressing that “the illegal siege of Gaza must end, and there needs to be a national unity government that has full control of Gaza,” the press release said.

Ashrawi also met with Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley to discuss efforts by Israel to “destroy” the two-state solution.

The briefing cited a number of Israeli violations of international law, including “illegal settlement activities, settler violence and terrorism, extrajudicial killings, the withholding of Palestinian remains, home demolitions, the arbitrary detention of (Palestinians)... Israeli unlawful actions at the Al-Haram al-Sharif, and settler attacks against Christian and Muslim holy sites.”

During her visit, Ashrawi also urged Merkley to pressure House Republicans to release $159 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority currently being withheld by Congress committees.

Ashrawi held the final meeting of her visit with Rob Malley, the special assistant to President Barack Obama and a White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa region, and Steven Galpern, the National Security Council director of Israeli-Palestinian Affairs.

In addition to asking for American support of future Palestinian initiatives, Ashrawi called for the United Nations “to take a more significant role in ending the occupation and safeguarding the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people,” the press release stated.

Ashrawi also denounced hateful rhetoric coming from Israeli government officials, which she described as “a constant barrage of hateful language that dehumanizes the victim,” notably pointing to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a repeat offender.

Ashrawi emphasized in her visit that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian officials remain committed to nonviolent resistance and efforts towards peace and justice on behalf of Palestinians.

The White House is considering backing a UN Security Council resolution outlining parameters for future peace negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leadership before Obama leaves office in January 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.

US Vice President Joe Biden landed in Tel Aviv Tuesday, just as multiple attacks were carried out by Palestinian individuals in Israel and occupied Palestinian territory.

During his visit, Biden said Israel could not stop violent acts carried out by Palestinians solely through physical force.

The vice president also condemned the attacks -- as well as the failure by Palestinian leadership to condemn the attacks -- during a joint press conference, according to AP.

While US-Israel relations have seen a series of diplomatic disputes during Obama’s administration, Israel remains the number one long-time recipient of US military aid, and discussions regarding a new aid agreement have been ongoing.

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