A senior administration official said on Sunday that Kushner was due to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Saudi city of Neom, and the Emir of Qatar there in the coming days. Kushner will be joined by Middle East envoys Avi Berkowitz and Brian Hook and Adam Boehler, managing director of the US International Development Finance Corporation.
Kushner and his team have helped negotiate normalization agreements between Israel and Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan since August. The official said he wanted to push forward other such deals before President Donald Trump hands power to President-elect Joe Biden on January 20.
U.S. officials believe that pushing Saudi Arabia into a deal with Israel would prompt other Arab countries to follow suit. But the Saudis do not appear to be close to making such a historic deal, and officials have focused in recent weeks on other countries, with concern over Iran’s regional influence a uniting factor.
Kushner’s trip comes after the murder of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Tehran on Friday by unidentified assailants. Western and Israeli governments believe that Fakhrizadeh was the architect of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program.
Days before the murder, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Saudi Arabia and met with bin Salman, an Israeli official said, during 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 landmark meeting highlighted how opposition in Tehran is driving a strategic realignment of countries in the Middle East. Bin Salman and Netanyahu fear that Biden will adopt policies on Iran similar to those adopted under the US presidency of Barack Obama, which strained Washington’s ties with its traditional regional allies. Biden has said he will join the international nuclear pact with Iran that Trump abandoned in 2018 – and work with his allies to tighten his terms – if Tehran first resumes strict compliance.
The senior administration official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, declined to give further details of Kushner’s trip on security concerns.
The official said Kushner met Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah at the White House last week. Kuwait is seen as essential 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 make up the GCC, severed diplomatic ties with Qatar in 2017 and imposed a boycott on allegations that Qatar supported terrorism, a charge it he denies.