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Trump sends Kushner to discuss Israeli-Palestinian talks

Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, will be joined by top national security aide Jason Greenblatt
Kushner will have meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah (Reuters)

Donald Trump is sending two top aides to Jerusalem and Ramallah this week to discuss potential next steps in his bid to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, a White House official said on Sunday.

Going on the trip will be White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, the US president's son-in-law and husband of his daughter Ivanka Trump, and Jason Greenblatt, a top national security aide. Greenblatt will arrive in the region on Monday and Kushner on Wednesday.

The talks follow Trump's discussions last month with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Behind-the-scenes conversations have been taking place since the Trump trip, the White House official said.

At a meeting at the White House early last month, Trump had told Abbas that he wanted to support him "in being the Palestinian leader who signs his name to the final and the most important peace agreement that brings safety, stability, prosperity to both peoples and to the region".

"Our strategic and sole option is to achieve the two-state solution, the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital to live side by side in peace, safety and stability together with the state of Israel along 1967 borders," he said.

Netanyahu was forced to strong-arm members of his own cabinet to meet Trump during his visit to Jerusalem where the American president said “We want Israel to have peace” but also spoke of the "threat of (the) Iranian regime...causing so much violence and suffering". He also said that Netanyahu was “working very hard at it [peace] . It’s not easy ... America stands ready to assist in every way we can.”

Kushner and Greenblatt will have meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah to hear directly from the Israeli and Palestinian leadership "about their priorities and potential next steps," the official said.

"President Trump has made it clear that working towards achieving a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians is a top priority for him. He strongly believes that peace is possible," the official said.

Greenblatt tweeted on Sunday night: "Excited to be traveling back to Israel and the Pal. Territories to continue the discussion about the possibility of peace."

Kushner and Greenblatt are working with the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and White House national security adviser HR McMaster on the Middle East issue.

"It is important to remember that forging a historic peace agreement will take time and to the extent that there is progress, there are likely to be many visits by both Mr Kushner and Mr Greenblatt, sometimes together and sometimes separately, to the region and possibly many trips by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to Washington or other locations as they pursue substantive talks," the official said.

Earlier this month, Trump waived a law that requires the US to move its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He had earlier said he supported the highly controversial move.

“No one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the president’s strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance,” the White House said.

In response the Israelis said that "maintaining embassies outside the capital drives peace further away by helping keep alive the Palestinian fantasy that the Jewish people and the Jewish state have no connection to Jerusalem.”

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