Nov 29, 2020 - World

Kushner to visit Saudi Arabia and Qatar seeking deal to end crisis

Kushner with senior Saudi officials in the Oval Office in 2018. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Jared Kushner will travel in the coming days to Saudi Arabia and Qatar in a last-ditch effort to resolve the dispute between the Gulf countries.

Why it matters: Fixing the rift between Saudi Arabia and Qatar would bring a sense of stability back to the Gulf and notch a last-minute achievement for Kushner and the Trump administration before Jan. 20.

Background: In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and other Sunni states severed ties with Qatar and closed their airspace and sea routes to Qatari planes and vessels. They claimed their decision was based on Qatar's support for terror groups and relations with Iran.

  • The U.S. maintains close ties with both Qatar and its rivals, but the Trump administration's several attempts to reconcile the parties were unsuccessful.

What to watch: Kushner will meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and Qatari Emir Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, U.S. officials tell me. Kushner has close relationships with both leaders.

  • Accompanying Kushner will be White House envoy Avi Berkowitz, International Development Finance Corporation CEO Adam Boehler, and former Iran envoy Brian Hook, who is now an unpaid special adviser and was involved in previous efforts to resolve the rift.

Driving the news: Kushner’s trip comes a week after a secret meeting between MBS and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Kushner’s relations with MBS proved crucial over the last few months as the Trump administration moved forward with the Abraham Accords, which led to normalization between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan.

  • The Saudis have not agreed to normalization, but they did agree to let Israeli airlines use Saudi airspace for the first time, and they gave Bahrain a green light for normalization with Israel. The decision by MBS to meet with Netanyahu was another significant step.
  • The Trump administration is still trying to push forward more potential normalization agreements before January.

What’s next: Kushner hopes to convince the Saudi and Qatari leaders to reconcile and reach a deal on several outstanding issues, U.S. officials tell me.

  • Kushner also wants to use the talks in Saudi Arabia to cement the agreement for Saudi Arabia to allow eastbound flights from Israel to pass through Saudi airspace.

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