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PA plans complaint against new Israel telecom sanctions

April 6, 2014 10:21 A.M. (Updated: April 20, 2014 12:43 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) --- The Palestinian Authority ministry of telecommunications and information technology is preparing to file a complaint at the International Telecommunication Union against Israel's recent decision to impose sanctions on Palestinian cell phone services, a ministry official said.

The announcement came after Israel said it would impose sanctions on the Palestinian Authority after the Palestinians submitted letters of accession to 15 international conventions and treaties.

Undersecretary of the ministry Sulaiman Zuheri told Ma'an that Israeli sanctions will "thwart" the US Secretary of State John Kerry's plans to develop the Palestinian economy, of which telecommunications is a major component.

Among proposed Israeli sanctions on Palestinian telecommunications are further impediments to the transfer of equipment into the Gaza Strip as well as the continued denial of 3G internet services to Palestinian providers. Israel has long refused Palestinian requests to allow providers to operate 3G services, but had given signs recently that it might relent.

Palestinian mobile service provider al-Wataniya Mobile has been denied access to the Gaza Strip by Israel since 2009, when it began providing services in the West Bank.

Following recent pressure by US secretary of state John Kerry, however, Israel had agreed to allow the entry of telecommunications equipment that had been waiting more than three years for Israeli approval, Zuheri said.

The ministry plans to take the issue of further Israeli sanctions on Palestinian telecommunications to the International Telecommunication Union, the UN agency responsible for global information technology.

The move comes amid a wider breakdown in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that followed Israel's refusal to release the fourth batch of veteran Palestinian prisoners as promised as part of a trust-building measure to restart US-backed peace talks.

Following Israel's failure to release the group of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails since before the 1993 Oslo Accords, Palestinian officials announced that they had submitted letters of accession to 15 international treaties and conventions.

Israeli officials denounced the move, with Israeli minister of tourism Uzi Landau warning that the PA would pay a "heavy price" if they went to UN institutions to pursue their complaints against Israel.

Peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians were relaunched in July under the auspices of the United States after nearly three years of impasse, but over the course of the talks Israel has announced plans to build thousands of homes in illegal settlements across the West Bank, angering Palestinian and US officials.

Israeli officials now fear that the Palestinian Authority may attempt to appeal to international bodies against Israeli policies.

The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.
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