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Despite official boycott, PA holds secret meetings with US officials

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank on May 12, 2021 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank on May 12, 2021 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has announced boycotting the US and its officials, however, he has continued holding secret meetings with US officials in Ramallah, The Times of Israel revealed on Friday.

Abbas has also ordered all Palestinian officials not to meet with the Americans following the closure of the US Consulate in occupied Jerusalem in 2018.

A PA official told The Times of Israel that meetings with US officials started shortly after President Joe Biden's administration announced that it would reopen the US Consulate in Jerusalem.

The PA severed ties with the Trump administration, which closed the consulate, considering the closure as a downgrading of relations with Palestinians.

During the Israeli offensive on Gaza, the US became frustrated due to its inability to easily engage with the Palestinians. Therefore, according to The Times of Israel, days after the May'21 offensive, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the region and notified the then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas about Biden's move.

OPINION: Israeli meetings with the PA destabilise the government coalition

In addition, The Times of Israel reported that Blinken dispatched former Head of the Mission Michael Ratney to Jerusalem to serve as charge d'affaires of the embassy until a full-time ambassador arrives.

An informed official reported that Ratney has longstanding ties with senior members of the PA and leveraged those relations to urge Abbas to end his boycott of the US Embassy, an official familiar with the matter disclosed.

US and Palestinian officials said that Abbas had privately met in Ramallah with Ratney and Palestinian Affairs Unit Chief George Noll several times since May to discuss the advancement of US-Palestinian bilateral ties.

Note: This page was updated at 11.44am BST on 10 October 2021 to further clarify that Blinken visited the region during the term of Benjamin Netanyahu – just days after the May'21 Israeli offensive on Gaza, but before Netanyahu vacated his office.

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