Pompeo, Kushner to Mideast as US presses Arab-Israeli peace

Politics

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to reporters following a meeting with members of the U.N. Security Council, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, at the United Nations. The Trump administration has formally notified the United Nations of its demand for all U.N. sanctions on Iran to be restored, citing significant Iranian violations of the 2015 nuclear deal. (Mike Segar/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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 Israeli and the United Arab Emirates to establish diplomatic relations.

Three diplomats say Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and 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.

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 Talban to discuss intra-Afghan peace talks that are key to the withdrawal of remaining U.S. 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 Israel-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 Aug. 13 they would establish full diplomatic relations, in a U.S.-brokered deal that required Israel to halt its contentious plan to annex occupied West Bank land sought by the Palestinians.

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 archenemy Iran have largely overtaken traditional Arab support for the Palestinians.

U.S. 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.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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