Trump aide Jared Kushner and team heading to Saudi Arabia, Qatar

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Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner for talks with President Donald Trump during a meeting with President Donald Trump at the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC on Tuesday March 20, 2018, with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Are standing

The Washington Post | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Senior White House advisor Jared Kushner and his team are headed to Saudi Arabia and Qatar this week for talks in an area tense after the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist.

A senior administration official said Sunday that Kushner is scheduled to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Saudi city of Neum and the Emir of Qatar in that country in the coming days. Kushner will join with Middle East envoys AV Berkowitz and Brian Hook and Adam Bohler, chief executive of the US International Development Finance Corporation.

Kushner and his team helped negotiate normalization deals between Israel and Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan since August. The official said he would like President Donald Trump to pursue more such agreements before handing over power to President Bide Joe Biden on January 20.

US officials believe that tempting Saudi Arabia with Israel will prompt other Arab countries to follow suit. But the Saudis do not appear to be on the verge of reaching such a landmark deal and officials have been focusing on other countries in recent weeks, with concern about Iran’s regional influence a unifying factor.

Kushner’s visit follows the killing of Mohsin Fakhrizade in Tehran on Friday by unknown assailants. Western and Israeli governments believe that Fakhrizadeh was the architect of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program.

A few days before the assassination, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Saudi Arabia and met with bin Salman, an Israeli official said, in what was the first publicly confirmed visit by an Israeli leader. Israeli media said they were joined by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The historic meeting underscored how Tehran’s opposition is bringing strategic importance to the countries of the Middle East. Bin Salman and Netanyahu fear Biden will adopt policies similar to Iran’s adopted during Barack Obama’s US presidency, which made Washington’s relations with its traditional regional allies strained. Biden has said he will rejoin the international nuclear deal with Iran that Trump left in 2018 – and strengthen his terms by working with an ally – if Tehran first introduced strict compliance.

The senior administration official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, refused to give more details of Kushner’s visit due to security reasons.

The official said Kushner met at the White House last week with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister, Sheikh Ahmed Nasser al-Mohammed al-Sabah. Kuwait is considered important in any effort to resolve a three-year rift between Qatar and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, which includes the GCC, cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in 2017 and boycotted it over allegations that Qatar supported terrorism, a charge denied.

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