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Peace coalition Swiss call for U-turn on Palestinian NGO closure

Abbas issued a decree ordering the closure of the Palestinian Peace Coalition (PPC) on Tuesday

(Keystone)

The Swiss foreign ministry has urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas go back on his decision to close a Palestinian peace centre it funds with other international donors.

“The Swiss foreign ministry is deeply concerned by this development and urges the president to go back on his decision,” the ministry told Watson.ch news site in a statement, adding that it would pursue discussions in Ramallah and Bern. 

On Tuesday Abbas issued a decree ordering the closure of the Palestinian Peace Coalition (PPC), which promotes along with Israeli activists the Geneva Initiative, an unofficial plan for Palestinian statehood and an end to conflict with Israel. The PPC’s assets and property in Ramallah are to be transferred to the Information Ministry. 

The PPC chairman is Yasser Abed Rabbo who was secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization until being unexpectedly dismissed from that post by Abbas last month. The veteran PLO official has criticized the president's decision-making for some time. 

The NGO is largely funded by the European Union, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. Switzerland has provided CHF200,000 to the PPC which is considers a strategic partner. 

In its statement, the Swiss foreign ministry also criticized the “increasingly shrinking democratic space” in the Palestinian territories, especially recent measures by Palestinian authorities against the activities of NGOs. 

The PPC was established in 2003, with the backing of then-president Yasser Arafat, in a bid to promote peacemaking with Israel. 

US-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 neighbourhoods in Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and of Arab neighbourhoods as the Palestinian capital.

swissinfo.ch with agencies

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