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Qatar's prime minister (R) attends the 2019 Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Saudi Arabia. Photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are close to a deal to end the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf following U.S.-mediated reconciliation talks this week, sources familiar with the talks tell me.

Why it matters: Restoring relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar would bring a sense of stability back to the Gulf after a 3.5 year standoff. It could also notch a last-minute achievement for 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.

Driving the news: Jared Kushner, White House envoy Avi Berkowitz and special adviser Brian Hook travelled earlier this week to Saudi Arabia and Qatar to try and hammer out a deal. Those talks yielded significant progress, the sources say.

  • The White House and the State Department have been working with the Kuwaiti government to try and solve the remaining disputes between the Saudis and the Qataris.
  • Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser al-Sabah issued a statement today hinting a deal is near. Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar welcomed the statement.

What they're saying: The foreign minister of Kuwait said the talks were constructive and all parties were committed to working towards solidarity and stability in the Gulf with the aim of finalizing an agreement. al-Sabah thanked Kushner for his efforts.

  • Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said the sides had taken “an imperative step towards resolving the Gulf crisis." He added, "The interest and security of the people of the Gulf and the region remain our top priority."
  • Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said he was "optimistic a deal is within reach."

Between the lines: The Trump administration has been pushing the Saudis in recent months both to normalize relations with Israel and to make a deal with Qatar.

  • A former U.S. official, who is in touch with both Saudis and Qataris, told me the Saudis thought that it would be more manageable domestically — and more beneficial regionally — to end the crisis with Qatar.
  • Moreover, the progress in the talks comes as Saudi Arabia is preparing for the Biden administration to assume office. Relations are likely to be tense, and the Saudis want to enter with as clean a slate as possible.

What’s next: Talks will continue in the coming days to anchor down the agreement and get buy-in from the other Gulf states and other countries in the region, the sources say.

Go deeper

Schiff asks new intel chief Avril Haines to declassify Jamal Khashoggi report

Photo: congress.gov via Getty Images

House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff on Friday formally asked Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to declassify a report on the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Why it matters: The Washington Post has reported that the CIA concluded with a high degree of confidence that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — a close ally of the Trump administration — ordered Khashoggi's assassination. The Trump administration never released the report to the public.

Stark reminder for America's corporate leaders

Rosalind "Roz" Brewer is about to become only the second Black woman to permanently lead a Fortune 500 company. She starts as Walgreens CEO on March 15.

Why it matters: It's a stark reminder of how far corporate America's top decision-makers have to go during an unprecedented push by politicians, employees and even a stock exchange to diversify their top ranks.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Updated 1 hour ago - Technology

Apple's quarterly sales top $100 billion for first time

Credit: Apple

Spurred by strong sales of the latest iPhones, Apple reported it took in a record $111 billion in revenue for the three months ended Dec. 31, as the company crushed expectations.

Why it matters: The move showed even a pandemic didn't dull demand for Apple's latest smartphones.

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