Palestinian president hosts US delegation in Ramallah

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas hosted Saturday a US delegation led by Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf, ahead of an expected visit of President Joe Biden.

Abbas reiterated his requests to remove the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) from the US list of terrorist entities during the meeting, his office said.

The Palestinian president also requested that the PLO’s office in Washington and the American consulate for east Jerusalem be reopened, after both were closed under the Trump administration, the Palestinian presidency said in a statement.

Leaf, who began a three-day trip to the Palestinian territories and Israel on Saturday, met Abbas “to discuss the US-Palestinian relationship, US assistance to Palestinians, deepening ties + how Palestinians and Israelis alike deserve equal measures of freedom, security & prosperity,” the State Department said.

Biden has pledged to reopen the consulate, closed under Donald Trump, whose administration recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, infuriating the Palestinians who see its eastern sector as their future capital.

Israel opposes the Palestinian consulate in Jerusalem, saying the US should open this diplomatic mission in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank.

Meanwhile, the US has in recent days changed the title of its Palestinian Affairs Unit to Office of Palestinian Affairs (OPA), without defining it a consulate.

The unit “operates under the auspices of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, and reports on substantive matters directly to the” State Department, an OPA spokesperson said, noting the new structuring was “to strengthen our diplomatic reporting and public diplomacy engagement”.

The move comes ahead of a possible visit of Biden to the region. The US president saying he was considering a trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Palestinian territories in July.

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