US denies visa to senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi

The PLO politician has family in the Washington area and regularly visits

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 24, 2015 Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi speaks during a press conference in Ramallah. The senior Palestinian official has been refused a visa for the United States, she said on May 13, 2019, amid worsening relations between the two sides. Ashrawi, a longtime aide to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, announced on Twitter she had been turned down without being given a justification.
 / AFP / Abbas MOMANI
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Veteran Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi revealed on Monday that she has been denied a travel visa to the US.

Ms Ashrawi, a widely known Palestinian negotiator and long-time member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, announced in a series of tweets that her visa was rejected.

“It is official. My US visa application has been rejected. No reason given,” she wrote.

Ms Ashrawi, a member of the PLO executive committee who has family in the Washington area, reflected on her regular past visits to the US.

She also studied in the US and completed a PhD at the University of Virginia.

“I’ve met and even negotiated with every secretary of state since [George] Shultz [1982], and every president since George H W Bush, present administration excluded.

"I’ve been a vocal critic of this administration and its underlings. I believe in freedom of speech.”

Ms Ashrawi is a fierce critic of the Trump administration and its support for Israel. The administration has moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, closed the PLO office in Washington and cut critical aid to the Palestinians.

"Visa records are confidential under US law," a State Department official told The National. "Therefore, we cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases.

“Whenever an individual applies for a US visa, a consular officer reviews the facts of the case and determines whether the applicant is eligible for that visa based on US law."

The official said US law did not refuse visas based "solely on political statements or views if those statements or views would be lawful in the United States”.

But for Ms Ashrawi, 72, the move was surprising. She has had heated exchanges with US envoy to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, Jason Greenblatt, who even invited her to the White House last February.

At the time, Mr Greenblatt tweeted: “Dr Ashrawi, my door is always open to the PA and Palestinians to speak.

"In fact, I’ve met many Palestinians over the past 14 months and continue to. I’m happy to meet any time.

You, Saeb [Erekat, secretary general of the PLO executive committee] and all your colleagues are always welcome to visit me at the White House to speak in person.”

But with her visa denied, visits to the White House are no longer possible.

The Trump team is reportedly preparing to release its peace plan between the Palestinians and the Israelis next month, after repeated delays and amid rising tension with the Palestinian Authority.