Jared Kushner made a secret visit to Saudi Arabia last week with other officials from President Donald Trump’s administration for talks on peace in the Middle East.
The president’s son-in-law and senior adviser made what was his third trip to the Gulf Kingdom this year alone, Politico reported, citing a White House official.
Kushner traveled commercially on Wednesday and was in the country with Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and deputy national security adviser Dina Powell. It remains unclear who they met with on their trip.
The visit was part of an ongoing regional effort by the White House to draw the influential powers in the Middle East into helping with the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, a decades-long conflict in which negotiations have remained dormant for years.
“While these regional talks will play an important role, the president reaffirms that peace between Israelis and Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the two parties and that the United States will continue working closely with the parties to make progress toward that goal,” the White House official told Politico in a statement.
“No deal will be imposed on Israelis and Palestinians. We are committed to facilitating a deal that improves conditions for both parties.”
Trump has tasked Kushner with sowing the seeds of peace in the Middle East and he was instrumental to a $110 billion arms deal signed between Washington and Riyadh in May, when Trump and a presidential delegation paid a visit to the country.
Both Kushner and Greenblatt have embarked on a period of shuttle diplomacy across the Middle East, from Amman, to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Dubai and Cairo, since Trump’s January 20 inauguration.
To that end, the U.S. is trying to prevent Israel’s right wing from taking unilateral measures that could harm any chance of reviving peace negotiations, which have been moribund since they last collapsed in 2014.
Israeli lawmakers were set to vote on legislation for a “Greater Jerusalem” on Sunday, in which several West Bank settlements would come under the responsibility of the Jerusalem municipality. The legislation was set to pass and set off the process of ratification. The international community deems the settlements, built on land Palestinians have earmarked for any future sovereign state, to be illegal.
But the bill was delayed after U.S. pressure for fear that it would hamper any hopes of peace with the Palestinians, according to right-wing lawmaker David Bitan, chairman of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition.
“There is American pressure that claims this is about annexation and that this could interfere with the peace process,” Bitan told Army Radio.
“The prime minister doesn’t think this is about annexation. I don’t think so either. We have to take the time to clarify matters to the Americans. Therefore, if the bill passes in a week, or in a month, it’s less problematic,” he said.
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