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As Trump’s Peacemaker, Kushner Finds Common Ground, and Complications, in Middle East Trip

Mr. Kushner, however, hopes to enlist Egypt as a partner in making progress between the Israelis and Palestinians. He accompanied Mr. Trump, his father-in-law, on a visit to the region and separately traveled to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders over the summer. But this was Mr. Kushner’s first trip to see leaders from Arab states he considers critical to resolving the generations-old conflict.

In addition to Mr. Sisi, Mr. Kushner met with King Abdullah II of Jordan, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Accompanied by Jason Greenblatt, the president’s special representative, and Dina Powell, the president’s deputy national security adviser, Mr. Kushner arrived in Jerusalem on Wednesday in advance of meetings on Thursday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.

In their meetings with Mr. Kushner, Arab leaders signaled readiness to cooperate, forgoing the usual grievances against Israel and instead focusing on their common interests, according to officials from Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

“I think the region needs this,” Yousef al-Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Washington, said in an interview. “If we can make a breakthrough on this right now, it would be a game changer for the region. I think Sheik Mohammed left the meeting optimistic and hopeful, but also realistic. We’re not underestimating the challenges.”

The challenges remain formidable, among them two leaders — Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas — who are politically weakened and seemingly not ready for an agreement. But the Trump administration is banking on a generational shift in the region to younger leaders and a shared interest in moving on from the intractable dispute to focus on threats from Iran.

“The stars could be aligned to make some serious progress on this issue,” said Mr. Otaiba. “Given the administration’s focus and Jared and the people he has, Jason and Dina, they provide a lot of confidence to people in the area. And having the backing of the White House is very important.”

In his statement, Mr. Sisi expressed enthusiasm for the American efforts and said settlement of the Palestinian issue would help fight terrorism across the Middle East. He made no mention of the funding cut.

A revised schedule for Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry suggested a meeting with Mr. Kushner had been canceled as a sign of displeasure. But Mr. Shoukry later met with Mr. Kushner alongside Mr. Sisi.

In its own statement, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said it “regretted” the American decision to curtail aid, and called it a sign of what it termed a “mixing of cards” that could have a negative impact. “Egypt considers this step as a misjudgment of the nature of the strategic relations that binds the two countries over decades,” it said.

Source: NYT > World

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