WASHINGTON, DC: Bell Pottinger has begun providing public relations counsel to the organization that represents the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the US.

According to documents filed earlier this month with the US Department of Justice, Bell Pottinger USA has been contracted to provide “advice on strategic communications, public relations, media relations and congressional affairs” to the General Delegation of the PLO to the United States.

The appointment of the agency comes ahead of a critical UN vote on Palestinian statehood next month. However, Bell Pottinger USA president David Sowells declined to comment on whether his agency’s work would involve this issue.

Vigorously opposed by Israel, the UN General Assembly vote to recognize Palestinian statehood is expected to be largely symbolic. President Obama has publicly stated that the campaign is misguided, although many European nations are believed to be so far undecided. The vote depends upon prior Security Council approval; as a permanent member, the US could yet derail the motion by casting a veto.

According to the DoJ filing, Bell Pottinger is reporting to Maen Rashid Areikat, chief representative of the PLO in the US. Areikat serves an ambassadorial function to the US, with a particular focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Bell Pottinger is no stranger to controversial Middle East assignments. The Holmes Report revealed earlier this year that the firm’s work for the Bahrain government had been suspended in light of the conflict in that country. The agency has also handled public sector work for Yemen and Qatar.

In its recent 2011 interim results announcement, Chime Communications chairman Lord Bell noted a reduction in Bell Pottinger’s “main US government contract”, which is understood to involve geopolitical work in the Middle East, particularly Iraq.