09:18 GMT +319 May 2019
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    A Palestinian refugee holds the flag of Palestine during a protest in Madrid, Spain, July 21, 2015

    US State Department Cancels Visas for PLO Ambassador’s Family

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    The wife and children of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) ambassador Husam Zomlot must change their immigration status or become unwelcome in the US after the closure of organization’s Washington DC office next month.

    The US revoked visas for the family of the ambassador of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Husam Zomlot, the envoy said in a statement Sunday.

    The statement comes as the US closes the office of the organization in Washington amid rapidly deteriorating relations between the Trump administration and Palestinian leadership.

    "As if the announcement that the US would close our office in Washington, DC was not enough, this vindictive action by the Trump administration is spiteful," Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO executive committee, commented in a statement. "The US has taken its attempts to pressure and blackmail the Palestinians to a new level."

    According to ambassador Zomlot, the US State Department requested a meeting with embassy employees and informed them that the ambassador's family visas will expire after the office is shut down next month. The officials said that should the family members decide to stay in the country, they would need to change their immigration status. The visas were reportedly set to expire in 2020.

    "This goes against diplomatic norms. Children, spouses and family have nothing to do with political rows," Zomlot added, according to Reuters.

    The US State Department announced the closure of the PLO office on September 10.

    "The Administration has determined after careful review that the office of the General Delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Washington should close," State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert announced in a press release at the time.

    PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat condemned the move, calling it a "dangerous escalation which demonstrates the United States' readiness to dismantle the international system in order to defend Israeli crimes."

    After US President Donald Trump unilaterally recognized the entire city of Jerusalem as a capital of Israel, Palestinians have boycotted US peace efforts, angering the White House, Reuters reported.

    The status of the city of Jerusalem, which both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their capital, is widely believed to be one of the biggest obstacles to any peace agreement between the two nations.


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