President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner returned home Saturday from an unannounced visit to Saudi Arabia — his third trip to the country this year.
Kushner left Washington, D.C., via commercial airline on Wednesday for the trip, which was not announced to the public, a White House official told POLITICO. He traveled separately from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who led a delegation to Riyadh last week to focus on combating terrorist financing.
Kushner was accompanied in the region by deputy national security adviser Dina Powell and Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt. Greenblattcontinued from Saudi Arabia to Amman, Jordan; Cairo; the West Bank city of Ramallah; and Jerusalem, where he was on Sunday.
The Trump administration has said its strategy is to try to draw in neighboring Arab leaders to play a role in Middle East peace. “Jared has always been driven to try and solve the Israel-Palestinian dispute,” said billionaire real estate investor Tom Barrack, a longtime friend and close Trump confidant. “The key to solving that dispute is Egypt. And the key to Egypt is Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia.”
The trip comes at a moment when the president’s son-in-law has played a downsized diplomatic role in other parts of the globe, such as China. But it shows that he is still firmly at the forefront of the administration’s efforts in the Middle East.
The White House official would not say who Kushner met with in Saudi Arabia. But he has cultivated a relationship with the crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, who, like Kushner, is in his 30s. Kushner arrived back in Washington, D.C., on Saturday night in time for a surprise birthday dinner for his wife, Ivanka Trump, at the Trump International Hotel.
“The Senior Advisor to the President, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy, and the Special Representative for International Negotiations recently returned from Saudi Arabia,” the White House official said in a statement to POLITICO. “The Senior Advisor has also been in frequent contact with officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.”
The White House official added: “While these regional talks will play an important role, the President reaffirms that peace between Israelis and Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the two parties and that the United States will continue working closely with the parties to make progress toward that goal.”