Jared Kushner returns to Saudi Arabia in bid to end Qatar feud

Jared Kushner returns to Saudi Arabia in bid to end Qatar feud

President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner will visit Saudi Arabia and Qatar this week in an attempt to end a 3½-year diplomatic crisis between the oil-rich kingdoms.

A source familiar with the trip said that resolving the long-running crisis is Kushner’s objective. It could be one of Kushner’s final trips before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler, launched a diplomatic siege against the smaller Arab kingdom in June 2017, but Qatar refused his demands, which included closing the Al Jazeera news network and downgrading relations with Turkey and Iran.

Kushner’s trip was in the works before the assassination on Friday of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, but resolving the Qatari rift would help the Saudis consolidate their regional standing as a counterweight to Iran before Biden takes office.

Bin Salman, 35, and Kushner, 39, developed a close relationship early in Trump’s administration, and Saudi consent was apparent when neighboring Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates this year became the third and fourth Arab nations to recognize Israel.

Qatar has remained close with the US, but responded to a Saudi blockade by rerouting air traffic over Iran. At one point, the Saudis weighed building a moat around Qatar to make the peninsula into an island.

Kushner meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Kushner meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin SalmanPhoto by HANDOUT/SPA/AFP via Getty Images

Kushner will be joined on the trip by his close aide Avi Berkowitz, State Department Iran envoy Brian Hook and Adam Boehler, CEO of the US International Development Finance Corporation.

Bin Salman, often referred to as MBS, visited the White House in early 2018, but six months later, Saudi Arabia came under international condemnation for the murder and bone-saw dismemberment of Virginia resident Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in Istanbul.

Trump argued the US-Saudi relationship was too important to jeopardize and shielded bin Salman from Congress, which passed legislation condemning Saudi Arabia for the Washington Post columnist’s death. Congress separately passed legislation urging the US to end its role in the Saudi-led intervention in the Yemeni civil war.

Bin Salman recently hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Saudi Arabia for talks, but reportedly said he could not normalize relations with Israel because of Biden’s win and the potential for US sanctions over Khashoggi’s death.