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PLO envoy to US says family visas revoked

 Muslim Times(Web  Desk) – The Palestine Liberation Organization’s ambassador to the US, Husam Zomlot, says Washington has revoked the visas of his entire family, another move that is expected to stir tensions after President Donald Trump’s recent decision to close down the organization’s Washington, DC office.

Zomlot, the head of the PLO General Delegation to the US, said Sunday that he had sent his family, including his two young children, back after finding out that their visas would expire once the diplomatic office is shuttered next month.

This is while the visas were originally set to expire in 2020, Reuters reported.

Zomlot said that two embassy employees had agreed to meet with State Department staff last week.

“The State Department informed our colleagues, as part of the discussion on the closure, that the visas of my wife and children are dependent on the PLO delegation and as such will not be valid after the closure of the office and that if they wanted to stay they would have to change their immigration status,” Zomlot said.

“This goes against diplomatic norms. Children, spouses and family have nothing to do with political rows,” he added.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton announced the decision to shut down the PLO mission last Monday.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO’s executive committee, reacted to the news by accusing the Trump administration of being “vindictive.”

“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,” Ashrawi said in a statement. “The US has taken its attempts to pressure and blackmail the Palestinians to a new level.”

The decision against the PLO came as a response to Palestine’s attempts to hold Israel responsible for its crimes against Palestinian people.

In late August, the US halted all funding to UNRWA, a UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees.

The US, which roughly provided one-third of UNRWA’s budget, suspended $65 million of the $125 million in aid it planned to contribute to the program back in January.

The US State Department also announced that Washington had canceled over $200 million in funds for the Palestinian Authority, leading Palestinian officials to denounce the move as “blackmail.”

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