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Palestinians say first meeting with Israeli official in months

By AFP - Nov 20,2020 - Last updated at Nov 20,2020

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories — A senior Palestinian official on Thursday said he had talks with an Israeli forces officer for the first time since the Palestinian Authority (PA) said it was restoring coordination with Israel.

Hussein Al Sheikh, the PA's civil affairs minister, said the first meeting in six months touched on several issues.

"Today I held a meeting with the Israeli side. We emphasised that the bilateral agreements signed, which are based on international legitimacy, are what governs this relationship," he tweeted.

"It was agreed to transfer all financial dues to the #PA, and we rejected the settlement policy, demolishing homes and lands confiscation," he said.

"It was agreed to hold another meeting soon."

The Palestinian news agency WAFA said Sheikh met Major General Kamal Abu Rukun, who heads the branch of Israel's army responsible for civilian affairs in the occupied West Bank, known as COGAT.

COGAT did not immediately confirm the report.

The meeting came as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Israel, the top US diplomat to tour Israeli illegal housing units in the West Bank and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

In May, the Palestinians stopped coordination with Israel, with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas saying it was in response to Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

Israel later put its annexation plans on hold, in return for an agreement to normalise ties with the United Arab Emirates, announced in August.

In halting the cooperation with Israel, the PA also stopped accepting transfer of taxes — particularly customs duties — collected by Israel on its behalf.

Deprived of this income, it had to cut the salaries of its civil servants, at a time when the Palestinian economy had begun grappling with the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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