Pompeo, Kushner to visit Israel and Arab states as US pushes more peace deals
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Pompeo, Kushner to visit Israel and Arab states as US pushes more peace deals

US secretary of state to visit Jerusalem Monday, then UAE, after landmark agreement; Israeli and American officials say other countries in region may also seek normalization

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo departs a meeting with members of the UN Security Council about Iran's alleged non-compliance with a nuclear deal at the United Nations in New York, August 20, 2020. (Mike Segar/Pool/AFP)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo departs a meeting with members of the UN Security Council about Iran's alleged non-compliance with a nuclear deal at the United Nations in New York, August 20, 2020. (Mike Segar/Pool/AFP)

The Trump administration will send two top officials to the Middle East this week in a bid to capitalize on momentum from the historic agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to establish diplomatic relations.

Three diplomats say US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner plan to make separate, multiple-nation visits to the region in the coming days to push Arab-Israeli rapprochement in the aftermath of the Israel-UAE deal.

Pompeo is expected to depart on Sunday for Israel, Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Sudan, according to the diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the itinerary has not yet been finalized or publicly announced.

Kushner plans to leave later in the week for Israel, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, the diplomats said.

Kushner will be accompanied by Avi Berkowitz, Trump’s peace envoy, the Walla news site reported. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and Brian Hook, the US pointman on Iran, are also expected to join the trip.

The group will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Jerusalem, and with the de-facto ruler of the UAE, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in Abu Dhabi, the report said.

Pompeo is expected to meet with the three leaders during his trip, as well as with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

Israeli officials said Pompeo’s visit will focus on Israel’s agreement with the UAE, and the White House’s push to reimpose UN sanctions on Iran, according to Axios.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner speaks at a press briefing at the White House in Washington, following the announcement of Israel’s normalization agreement with the UAE, August 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Neither trip is expected to result in announcements of immediate breakthrough, the diplomats said, although both are aimed at finalizing at least one, and potentially more, normalization deals with Israel in the near future.

Pompeo also plans to meet in Qatar with members of the Taliban to discuss intra-Afghan peace talks that are key to the withdrawal of remaining US forces in Afghanistan, the diplomats said.

The White House and State Department had no comment on the planned trips, which will come as the administration steps up efforts to push for Arab-Israeli normalization even without a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

They also come as the administration has taken the controversial step of triggering the restoration of all international sanctions on Iran, something that only Israel and the Gulf Arab nations have publicly supported.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced on August 13 they would establish full diplomatic relations, in a US-brokered deal that required Israel to halt its plan to annex parts of the West Bank.

The historic agreement delivered a key foreign policy victory to Trump as he seeks reelection and reflected a changing Middle East in which shared concerns about Iran have largely overtaken traditional Arab support for the Palestinians.

US and Israeli officials have suggested that more Arab nations may soon follow the UAE’s lead, with Bahrain and Oman believed to be closest to sealing such deals.

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