Trump senior aide Kushner and team head to Middle East

Official's trip comes after killing on Friday of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Tehran by unidentified assailant

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is interviewed by Reuters at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, U.S., June 20, 2019. Picture taken June 20, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and his team are heading to Saudi Arabia and Qatar this week for talks in a region simmering with tension after the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist.

A senior administration official said on Sunday that Mr Kushner is to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Neom, and the emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim in coming days.

Mr Kushner will be joined by Middle East envoys Avi Berkowitz and Brian Hook, and Adam Boehler, chief executive of the US International Development Finance Corporation.

He and his team helped to negotiate normalisation deals between Israel and Bahrain, the UAE and Sudan since August.

The administration is looking to make more of those agreements before US President Donald Trump hands power to president-elect Joe Biden on January 20.

US officials believe convincing Riyadh into a deal with Israel would prompt other Arab nations to follow.

But Saudi Arabia does not appear to be on the brink of a deal and officials in recent weeks have been focusing on other countries, with concern about Iran's regional influence a uniting factor.

Mr Kushner's trip comes after the killing on Friday of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Tehran by unidentified assailants.

Western and Israeli governments believe Fakhrizadeh was the architect of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons programme.

The UAE condemned the assassination, saying it could fuel more tension in the region.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation on Monday said that all parties should work towards de-escalation.

"Given the current situation in the region, the UAE calls upon all parties to exercise maximum degrees of self-restraint to avoid dragging the region into new levels of instability and threats to peace," the ministry said.

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