Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 15 December 2019

Jared Kushner: Middle East economic plan to wait for political peace deal

White House adviser acknowledges necessity of first finding political agreement

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser, speaks to reporters as he closes the much-criticised, US-sponsored Middle East economic conference in Bahrain. AFP
Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser, speaks to reporters as he closes the much-criticised, US-sponsored Middle East economic conference in Bahrain. AFP

Senior US official Jared Kushner on Wednesday ruled out any spending on the US economic plan to help solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict without “an actual understanding” of a peace deal.

The senior adviser to President Donald Trump appeared to back down to critics of the plan, who had said separating economics from Palestinian rights entrenched in international law would not be accepted.

Although Mr Kushner, also Mr Trump's son-in-law, said the US was working on a proposal for a political solution, it was the first time he publicly stressed the importance of that side of the deal.

“We are talking with some of our partner countries about finding ways to create the right mechanism to potentially implement it in the event there is progress on the political front,” he said of the US$50 billion plan unveiled last month.

“What we want to do is finalise it and make it more real.

"At some point there will be negotiations on the political issues and when that happens I think it will give a lot more comfort for these negotiations for people to see that there is a defined, locked-and-loaded economic plan for what could occur after a political breakthrough is reached.”

The US last week convened a major conference in Bahrain to promote the economic plan, which envisaged more than 150 projects, including a transport link between the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

It allocated $27bn for the two territories, with the remaining $23bn going to Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel.

The Palestinian leadership had rejected the plan even before it was unveiled, saying Mr Trump had no intention of acknowledging the Israeli occupation and restoring Palestinian rights.

Muriel Asseburg of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, and Hugh Lovatt of the European Council on Foreign Relations wrote in Foreign Policy magazine last month that Europe should stay away from the deal, calling it a "doomed plan that will make things worse".

"They should only back it if the core political rights of Palestinians and basic provisions of international law are protected," the researchers said.

Updated: July 4, 2019 12:38 AM

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