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PLO delegation meets with US officials in Washington

Dec. 13, 2016 4:27 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 15, 2016 6:17 P.M.)
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat (AFP, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) delegation met with US officials in Washington, D.C. on Monday as a final meeting with President Barack Obama’s administration before the transition to President-Elect Donald Trump in January.

A joint statement by the US-Palestinian Political Dialogue said that PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat and US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart E. Jones met to discuss a number of issues related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the broader Middle East.

The delegations reportedly discussed “the PLO’s long-standing commitment to non-violence” and the two-state solution, which they described as “the only way to achieve an enduring peace that meets Israeli and Palestinian security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, end the occupation that began in 1967, and resolve all permanent status issues.”

The US-Palestinian Political Dialogue further added that it was looking forward to continuing its work in 2017 to remain as a forum to discuss Palestinian issues.

While the statement made no mention of how such a dialogue was expected to develop under a Trump administration, the Republican president-elect has so far indicated a very strong support for the far-right Israeli government, which has led many observers to predict that Israeli violations of international law in the occupied Palestinian territory could increase during his tenure as American president.

On Monday, Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway reiterated that Trump’s campaign pledge to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would be a “very big priority.”

If implemented, the controversial move would give legitimacy to Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem since 1967, disregard Palestinian claims to the city, and terminate a longstanding White House policy to perpetually defer a 1995 Congressional decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and move the embassy there.

Trump has also expressed support for Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, which are illegal under international law.

Leading up the arrival of Erekat-led delegation, Israeli news site Haaretz reported, citing anonymous sources, that the Palestinian-US meetings would aim to discuss a future United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution against illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

According to the report, an official from the office of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the outgoing Obama administration is not likely accept the draft resolution in its current form, and discussions would be geared toward negotiating a version that would avoid an American veto when the resolution is introduced to the UNSC, reportedly scheduled for January.

The Palestinian Authority shelved the submission of a new anti-settlement resolution to the UN in April, out of fear that the resolution would thwart the progress of a French-lead initiative to hold a multilateral peace conference.

The French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters in Paris last Wednesday that the conference should be held before Christmas in Paris, stressing that “It is necessary to again create the conditions for two States and we cannot forget this perspective."
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