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Kushner heads to Mideast to press US peace plan: White House

Palestinian authorities have already rejected the plan as bias toward Israel [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 May, 2019

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

US President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner is heading to the Middle East, the White House confirmed on Tuesday, signalling a fresh push on a long promised but yet to be delivered peace plan for the region.

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

They "will travel from May 27 to May 31 to Rabat, Amman, and Jerusalem," said a White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Trump administration is expected to unveil the long-awaited plan - after numerous failures by their predecessors - possibly as early as next month, but the Palestinians have already rejected it as heavily biased in favour of Israel.

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

Kushner's trip comes just days after Trump authorised $8.1 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies, bypassing Congress.

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

Congress had frozen arms sales to the kingdom after the assassination of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in October and concerns over the human toll of a Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.

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

'Will go to hell'

On Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said at a ceremony in Ramallah that Trump's administration's proposed peace plan - known as the "Deal of the Century" - "will go to hell", according to local news sources.

It came after the White House announced on Sunday it would co-host the June 25-26 conference in the Bahraini capital, focusing on economic aspects of Trump's long-delayed Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

The plan, which has been two years in the making, envisions large-scale investment and infrastructure work in the Palestinian territories but the central political elements remain mostly unknown.

"The Palestinian Authority does not recognise this conference," Abbas said at a Ramallah event, "Trump's "Deal of the Century" will go to hell, as will the economic workshop in Bahrain that the Americans intend to hold.”

"Whoever is interested in proposing a solution to the Palestinian issue should begin with a diplomatic solution," Abbas added in Monday comments.

The Palestinians had already said they had not been informed about the event and were expected not to attend but confirmed the stance on Wednesday.

"Palestine will not attend the Manama meeting," a statement on the Palestine Liberation Organisation's (PLO) website said.

"This is a collective Palestinian position, from President Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO Executive Committee to all Palestinian political movements and factions, national figures, private sector and civil society."

The White House has so far not provided details on attendees but a number of prominent Palestinian businessmen have said they rejected invites to the event.

The Palestinians have boycotted the US administration since President Donald Trump broke with decades of consensus and recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December 2017.

They consider the eastern part of the city the capital of their future state and have opposed the proposed US peace plan, which they fear will be heavily biased in favour of Israel.

The Bahrain conference could see large-scale investment pledges for the Palestinian territories but is unlikely to focus heavily on the political issues at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: borders, the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and Israel’s security.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will send senior ministers to participate in the conference despite calls by Palestinian leadership for an Arab boycott of the meeting.

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