Kushner heads to Middle East to seek support for US peace plan

US delegation began trip in Morocco and is set to travel to Jordan and Jerusalem later this week.

    White House adviser Jared Kushner is leading a US delegation to the Middle East and North Africa [Susan Walsh/AP]
    White House adviser Jared Kushner is leading a US delegation to the Middle East and North Africa [Susan Walsh/AP]

    US President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner is leading a delegation to the Middle East, signalling a new push on a long-promised peace plan for the region.

    Kushner has been accompanied by Jason Greenblatt, Trump's special representative for international negotiations, and Brian Hook, the special US representative for Iran, the White House said on Tuesday.

    The delegation began its trip in the Moroccan capital Rabat and was set to travel to Amman, Jordan, and Jerusalem later this week.

    A White House official told Reuters News Agency one reason for this week's trip is to boost support for a June 25-26 US-led conference in Manama, Bahrain, in which Kushner is set to unveil the first part of Trump's long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

    The proposal, touted by Trump as the "deal of the century", is set to encourage investment in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip by Arab donor countries, before dealing with the major political issues at the heart of the conflict.

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    The Palestinians have already rejected the plan as extremely biased in favour of Israel and declined to take part in the Manama meeting. Palestinian leaders said they were not consulted about the conference and stressed any solution to the conflict must be political.

    Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have said they will participate, but Russia and China have said they will not send delegations.

    The participants are expected to include 300 to 400 representatives and business executives from Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and possibly some Palestinian business figures.

    Washington has yet to commit to an exact timetable with respect to the political aspects of the peace plan.

    Kushner is the chief architect of the proposals and Greenblatt, a longtime Trump lawyer, has served as his right-hand man on the Middle East initiative.

    Reporting from Washington, DC, Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna said that Kushner was likely trying to drum up support for the conference in Bahrain.

    "It would appear that this trip is connected to the conference scheduled for Bahrain next month, at which Jared Kushner says that economic aspects of his proposal for Israel-Palestine are to be discussed. He has insisted that the economic aspect of this deal needs to be settled before the political aspects can be addressed," he said.

    "Significantly, the king of Jordan has not indicated whether he will be attending that conference in Bahrain. Equally, Morocco has not made clear whether it will be attending. It is very important for Jared Kushner to convince Jordan and Morocco to take part in that conference otherwise it could lose whatever credibility it may have," he added.

    Arms sales to Saudi

    Kushner's trip comes just days after Trump authorised $8.1bn in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies, bypassing the US Congress, which had frozen arms sales to the kingdom after the assassination of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 and stressed concerns over the human toll of a Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.

    But the Trump administration defended the sales as necessary "to deter Iranian aggression and build partner self-defence capacity".

    Kushner has looked to an alliance with the Saudis against Iran as a way to gain Arab support for the US peace plan.

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    SOURCE: News agencies