Kushner Heads to Saudi Arabia and Qatar for Talks

  • Kushner and his team have helped negotiate normalization agreements between Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan since August.
  • US officials have focused their efforts on other countries that share concerns about Iran's growing influence in the region.
  • Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Netanyahu fear that Biden will adopt policies on Iran similar to those adopted during Barack Obama's presidency, which have strained Washington's relations with its traditional allies in the region.

A senior US administration official said on, Sunday that Jared Kushner, senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, will meet within the next few days, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Saudi city of NEOM and with the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Doha.

Jared Kushner, a senior White House adviser, is heading to Saudi Arabia and Qatar this week for talks over the region, which has been simmering with tension after the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Kushner will be accompanied on the visit by US envoy to the Middle East Avi Berkowitz and Brian Hook, head of the American International Development Finance Corporation, Adam Buehler.

Kushner and his team have helped negotiate normalization agreements between Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan since August. The official said they would like more such agreements to be completed before the end of President Trumps first term.

US officials believe that pushing Saudi Arabia to enter into an agreement with Israel would push other Arab countries to follow suit.

But the Saudis do not appear to be on the verge of reaching such a historic agreement. In recent weeks, US officials have focused their efforts on other countries that share concerns about Iran’s growing influence in the region.

“We continue to be willing to engage with our Qatari brothers, and we hope that they are as committed to that engagement,” said Prince Faisal bin Farhan.

“But we do need to address the legitimate security concerns of the quartet and I think there is a path toward that” with a solution “in the relatively near future,” he said.

Kushner’s visit comes after Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed on Friday in Tehran by unknown assailants. Western and Israeli governments believe that Fakhrizadeh was the architect of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Saudi King Salman, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (right).

Days before Fakhrizadeh was killed, an Israeli official said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had traveled to Saudi Arabia, where he met with Crown Prince Mohammed.

It was the first confirmed, announced visit by an Israeli leader. Israeli media reported that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined them.

This historic meeting showed how the anti-Iranian stance is leading to a rearrangement of strategies in Middle Eastern countries.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Netanyahu fear that Biden will adopt policies on Iran similar to those adopted during Barack Obama’s presidency, which have strained Washington’s relations with its traditional allies in the region.

Biden said that he would bring his country back to the Iran nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew in 2018, while working with allies to tighten its provisions, if Tehran first returned to strict adherence to this agreement.

“A resolution to the blockade appears to be in sight,” Sigurd Neubauer, author of ‘The Gulf Region and Israel’ and an expert on Middle East politics, told Al Jazeera. “We don’t know if it will be before Trump leaves office or when Biden comes in. But it’s really not if, but when.”

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.

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