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Israel receives Palestinian minister’s VIP passport during ICC meeting, Palestinians say

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RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Israeli authorities confiscated Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki’s VIP border crossing after his return to the West Bank from a meeting at the International Criminal Court, a Palestinian official said Sunday.

Photo Photo: Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki speaks during the Ministerial Meeting of the Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Caracas, Venezuela July 21, 2019. REUTERS / Manaure Quintero

Ahmed al-Deek, an official in Maliki’s office, told Reuters that the Israeli move was linked to Maliki’s meeting with ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda at her office in The Hague on Thursday.

News website Israel Walla quoted unnamed Israeli officials as saying Maliki’s visit to the ICC was the reason for revoking his VIP card, an Israeli-issued permit that allows dozens of senior Palestinian officials to move freely across border crossings.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to comment and the Israeli Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

This is the Foreign Minister of the State of Palestine. He does not represent himself. He represents the state of Palestine and we consider this an attack against the state of Palestine, Deek said.

He added that Israeli officers stopped and interrogated Maliki’s aides for 90 minutes at the Israeli-operated border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank.

Deek said the minister left the crossing without the card. It was not clear when he would return.

Bensouda announced this month that it would formally investigate war crimes in the Palestinian territories, a move welcomed by the Palestinian Authority and denounced by Israel.

On Friday, ICC prosecutors said they had sent notices to Israel and the Palestinians about opening a war crimes investigation, an action that leaves the parties with a month to request an adjournment.

Maliki’s office said Thursday that he met with Bensouda to urge the investigation to speed up.

Reporting by Ali Sawafta and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Edited by Frances Kerry

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