U.S. Says Still in Talks With Palestinian Authority, Despite Abbas' Declaration to Suspend Ties

Palestinian president declared a suspension of ties after the U.S. threatened to shut down the PLO mission in Washington over threats to take Israel to The Hague

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks to the media after his meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah at the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan October 22, 2017.

The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday that the Trump administration is in discussion with the Palestinian Authority over the fate of the Palestinian delegation in Washington, D.C., despite a declaration by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to suspened contacts with the United States.

"There are conversations taking place, we are in contact with them," Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said during a press briefing. She added that the Trump administration is still strongly committed to its plan for achieving a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, and that the United States continues to have a strong relationship with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Nabil Abu Rudeinah, a spokesman for Abbas who is accompanying him on an official visit to Madrid, ealier said this will be a decisive period in relations between the United States and Palestinians. He said Abbas’ order is a direct response to recent measures by the United States.

Although Abbas’ instructions are being carried out by senior diplomats, day-to-day contacts and consultations with the Americans conducted by lower level officials will not cease, a senior Palestinian official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

As of Tuesday, Nauert added, the PLO mission in Washington was still open, and talks about its fate, in light of the State Department's announcement that it may be forced to shut down, are continuing.

The fallout began last week when the Trump administration notified the Palestinian Authority that unless it enters serious peace negotiations with Israel, the U.S. could shut down the Palestinian diplomatic delegation in Washington, D.C. within the next few months. 

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Palestinians that this decision was reached as a result of statements made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who called on the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel and prosecute actions by Israelis.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is slated to visit Bethlehem in December. At this stage, the visit hasn’t been canceled.