Jared Kushner will travel to Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the coming days to resolve the dispute between the Gulf states.
Why it matters: Closing the Saudi Arabia-Qatar rift would restore a sense of stability to the Gulf and bring Kushner and the Trump administration a last-minute success before Jan. 20.
Background: In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and other Sunni countries severed relations with Qatar and closed their air and sea routes for planes and ships from Qatar. They claimed their decision was based on Qatar’s support for terrorist groups and relations with Iran.
- The US has close ties with Qatar and its rivals, but the Trump administration’s various attempts to reconcile the parties have been unsuccessful.
What to see: Kushner will meet the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and the Qatari Emir Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, US officials tell me. Kushner has close ties with both leaders.
- Kushner will be accompanied by White House envoy Avi Berkowitz, International Development Finance Corporation CEO Adam Boehler, and former Iranian envoy Brian Hook, who is now an unpaid special adviser and has been involved in previous efforts to resolve the rift.
Driving messages: Kushner’s trip comes a week after a secret meeting between MBS and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Kushner’s relationship with MBS turned out to be crucial In the last few months, as the Trump administration pushed the Abraham Accords forward, it normalized Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.
- The Saudis have not agreed to normalization, but they have agreed to let Israeli airlines use Saudi airspace for the first time, and they have given Bahrain the green light to normalize with Israel. MBS ‘decision to meet with Netanyahu was another important step.
- The Trump administration is still trying to push further potential normalization deals before January.
What’s next: Kushner hopes to convince the Saudi and Qatari leaders to reconcile and reach an agreement on some outstanding issues, US officials tell me.
- Kushner also wants to use the talks in Saudi Arabia to consolidate the agreement for Saudi Arabia, according to which flights from Israel to the east may pass through Saudi airspace.