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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.

Go deeper: Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Go deeper

Jan 26, 2021 - World

Sudan hosts first-ever visit from Israeli government minister

Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Photo: Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Israeli Minister of Intelligence Eli Cohen became the first Israeli government minister ever to visit Sudan on Monday.

Driving the news: Cohen met in Khartoum with the head of Sudan's governing council, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, as well as Sudan's minister of defense and intelligence chief. The meeting comes three months after a U.S.-brokered normalization deal between Israel and Sudan.

Jan 26, 2021 - World

Biden administration lays out its policies on Israel-Palestine at the UN

Biden with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2010. Photo: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

The Biden administration today laid out its policies on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and stressed its intention to renew ties with the Palestinian Authority.

Why it matters: The Trump administration dramatically changed U.S. policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President Biden's policies, laid out for the first time today, will shift the U.S. back to the more traditional positions held by previous Democratic and Republican administrations.

Kaine, Collins' censure resolution seeks to bar Trump from holding office again

Sen. Tim Kaine (center) and Sen. Susan Collins (right). Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool via Getty Images

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) are forging ahead with a draft proposal to censure former President Trump, and are considering introducing the resolution on the Senate floor next week.

Why it matters: Senators are looking for a way to condemn Trump on the record as it becomes increasingly unlikely Democrats will obtain the 17 Republican votes needed to gain a conviction, Axios Alayna Treene writes. "I think it’s important for the Senate's leadership to understand that there are alternatives," Kaine told CNN on Wednesday.

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