Tillerson: PA has "changed policy", will stop paying terrorists' families

Lawmakers will grill Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about President Donald Trump's unpopular budget, conflicting messages about foreign affairs and links between the administration and Russian Federation, including his own ties, at congressional hearings starting on Tuesday. Support for Palestinian prisoners and families of so-called martyrs enjoys wide consensus among the Palestinian public.

"There's a lot of relationships that Jared's made over time - Mexico being one of them - that are going to continue having conversations with him", White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters in April.

The Palestinian minister of prisoner affairs says the payments must continue.

"I think this remark came as a surprise to the senators, as he presented it as a collective opinion of all the US' allies and not just the administration of President Trump", he told Sputnik.

"They have changed that policy and their intent is to cease the payments to the families of those who have committed murder or violence against others", Tillerson said.

Citing alleged Russia's "interference" in the 2016 presidential election in the U.S., as well as the situations in Crimea and in Syria, the senators say they want new sanctions imposed on Moscow.

Senators from both USA main parties struck an agreement on Tuesday that would strengthen sanctions on Russian Federation and codify them, allowing lawmakers to review changes rather than exclusively the president, after fears that the White House could lift them too flippantly.

His claim was quickly denied by the Palestinians themselves.

Israel's defense minister says he sees no sign the Palestinians stopped the payments or intend to.

Then-President Barack Obama in late December ordered sanctions on Russian spy agencies, closed two Russian compounds and expelled 35 diplomats the US said were really spies.

"It is the Department of State and myself (who are responsible for conducting foreign policy)", Tillerson said.

After issuing that waiver, the president's spokesman said he hoped to maximize his chances of rebooting peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

Rex Tillerson warned that the US Senate's bipartisan deal on new set of restrictive measures against Moscow might further worsen relations with Russia and hinder existing efforts on joint US-Russia progress to fight terrorism in Syria.

Yet, a short while later in the session, Tillerson appeared to revert to his position of the previous day, telling the congressional panel that assurances from the Palestinian leadership on this issue "were given to me during the President's visit to Bethlehem".

The payments are technically carried out by the Palestine Liberation Organization - an umbrella group for Palestinian factions - after Abbas earlier transferred the responsibility away from the PA in an attempt to deflect criticism of the payment system.

About 6,500 Palestinians are now detained in Israeli prisons, including more than 500 held without charge.

Israel argues that such stipends promote violence.

  • Leroy Wright