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Arab states welcome US role in Middle East peace talks

Kushner to meet Netanyahu, Abbas, leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt
US presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner (AFP)

The Palestinian, Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers expressed support for US Middle East peace efforts at a Cairo meeting ahead of a White House delegation visit to the region - which may happen this week, an Israeli website reported on Sunday.

Egypt's foreign ministry had said earlier the three would meet to coordinate ahead of the visit by the US delegation that includes President Donald Trump's adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who was charged with helping to broker a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians shortly after Trump became president.

The ministers said in a joint statement on Saturday they "appreciated the American role to achieve peace" between the Israelis and Palestinians. They "look forward to the US administration intensifying its efforts in the coming period".

Talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill since the failure of US mediation in the spring of 2014.

Kushner is expected to visit the region this week in an attempt to advance the peace process, the Arutz Sheva website reported. He will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt.

Trump, who visited Israel and the occupied West Bank in May, has said he believes he can mediate a final peace agreement that has eluded his predecessors.

A White House official said earlier that Trump planned to send Kushner and negotiator Jason Greenblatt to the Middle East to discuss a "path to substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks". Deputy national security adviser Dina Powell will also be on the trip, the official said.

"While the 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 towards that goal," the official said.

The president went to Saudi Arabia and Israel during his first post-inauguration trip abroad and has expressed a personal commitment to reaching a deal that has eluded his Republican and Democratic predecessors.

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The timing of the trip is pegged to the recent "restoration of calm and the stabilised situation in Jerusalem" after a spate of violence last month sparked by Israel's installation of metal detectors at entry points to the Noble Sanctuary or Temple Mount compound there.

Trump has directed that the talks focus on a pathway to peace talks, fighting "extremism," easing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and identifying economic steps that can be taken to ensure security and stability, the official said.

"To enhance the chances for peace, all parties need to engage in creating an environment conducive to peace-making while affording the negotiators and facilitators the time and space they need to reach a deal," the official said.

Kushner visited the region for one day in June to advance US peace plans. He met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a meeting described by the American side as “positive and fruitful,” the Arutz Sheva website reported.

He also met in Ramallah with Abbas. The White House described the meeting as “productive” and said the sides “reaffirmed their commitment to advancing President Trump's goal of a genuine and lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians that enhances stability in the region”.

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