U.S. Closes PLO Office, Adding Pressure On Palestinians

The Trump administration on Monday announced its decision to close the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)'s office in Washington, a move to further press the Palestinians into peace talks with Israel while invoking strong objections.

The U.S. State Department unveiled the decision in a statement released Monday, citing the Palestinians' lack of "steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel."

"PLO leadership has condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise," said U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert in the statement.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration still voiced optimism about the long stalled Middle East peace process. "We are very much committed to the process, and we're still hopeful we can get there," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders in a daily briefing Monday.

The U.S. government gives a waiver to the Palestinian mission in Washington every six months to keep it function normally.

Shortly after the State Department announcement, John Bolton, the U.S. national security advisor, followed up in his speech at a think tank in Washington.

Bolton also threatened to impose sanctions against judges and prosecutors of the ICC if it pursues investigation against the United States, Israel or other U.S. allies.

"What Trump is doing is nothing really different than Bush," Ford O'Connell, a Republican and news commentator who frequently shows up on TV, told Xinhua.

The United States did not ratify the Rome treaty that established the ICC in 2002, as then U.S. president George W. Bush voiced objection to the court.

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua

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