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Abbas Reopens Palestinian NGO after European Pressure

  • Reuters

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas chairs a Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Aug. 22, 2015.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas chairs a Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Aug. 22, 2015.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has revoked his decision to close an internationally-funded Palestinian peace center run by a political rival following European intervention, officials said on Thursday.

The Palestinian Peace Coalition (PPC) promotes, along with Israeli activists, an unofficial plan -- known as the Geneva Initiative -- for Palestinian statehood and an end to conflict with Israel.

A presidential decree issued last week ordered the PPC to be shut and its assets and property in the West Bank city of Ramallah transferred to the Information Ministry.

But a Palestinian official, who asked not to be identified, said European supporters of the center, especially Switzerland, had pressed the government to keep it open.

"Legally, the previous decision was withdrawn," said Abbas's legal adviser Hassan Al-Auri.

A Palestinian diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a letter was sent to the Swiss Foreign Ministry by its Palestinian counterpart in Ramallah pledging that the PPC would continue to operate.

Abbas' office gave no reason for the original decision to shut the PPC but it was widely seen as an attempt to sideline Yasser Abed Rabbo, who ran the center and who was secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization until his unexpected dismissal last month by the president.

Abed Rabbo, effectively Abbas's number two in the PLO, has been critical of the president's decision-making for some time.

The PPC was established in 2003, with the backing of then-president Yasser Arafat, in a bid to promote peacemaking with Israel. It is largely funded by Switzerland, the European Union, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark.

U.S.-brokered talks between Israel and the Palestinians on a permanent peace agreement collapsed in 2014, with both sides deeply divided over issues such as borders, the future of Jerusalem and Israeli settlement-building on land Israel has occupied since a 1967 war.

The Geneva Initiative advocates a two-state solution, Israeli annexation of large settlement blocs as part of land swaps between the two sides and recognition of Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and of Arab neighborhoods as the Palestinian capital.

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