Kushner in Turkey for talks with Erdogan

White House adviser Jared Kushner in Turkey for talks expected to focus on Mideast peace plan.

ANKARA - White House adviser Jared Kushner arrived in Turkey on Wednesday for talks with President Tayyip Erdogan that are expected to focus on a still- unannounced US peace plan for the Middle East, the leaked contours of which suggest little has been done to address the demands of Palestinians and Arab states.

Kushner, who has responsibility for Washington's Israel-Palestinian policy, has said the plan will address final-status issues of the conflict, including establishing borders.

He was scheduled to meet Erdogan at the presidential palace in the Turkish capital Ankara at 3 pm (1200 GMT), the presidential office said. No media statement has been scheduled.

Erdogan has been one of the most vocal critics of President Donald Trump's support for Israel.

Last year he said the United States had forfeited its role as mediator in the Middle East by moving its Israel embassy to Jerusalem and recognising the city as Israel's capital.

"The United States has chosen to be part of the problem rather than the solution," the Turkish president said last May, days before he hosted a summit of Muslim leaders which threatened economic measures against countries which followed the United States in moving their embassies to Jerusalem.

Israel calls all of Jerusalem its "eternal and undivided capital", a status not recognised internationally. Palestinians want East Jerusalem, captured and occupied by Israel in a 1967 war, as capital of a future state.

In an interview broadcast on Monday on Sky News Arabia during a visit to US-allied Gulf Arab states, Kushner made no specific mention of a Palestinian state, whose creation had been a key goal of Washington's peace efforts for two decades.

No progress

Kushner said the long-awaited peace proposal would build on "a lot of the efforts in the past", including the 1990s Oslo accords that were supposed to provide a foundation for Palestinian statehood, and would require concessions from both sides.

US officials said that Kushner, who is Trump's son-in-law, is expected to focus on the economic component of the plan during his week-long trip to the region.

His approach to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not appear to have progressed since his last regional tour in June, focusing largely on economic initiatives at the expense of a land-for-peace deal long central to the official Arab position.

Palestinians have refused to discuss any peace blueprint with the United States in the wake of Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital in 2017, while some Arab leaders have publicly rejected any deal that fails to address Jerusalem's status or refugees' right of return.

Kushner, who is President Donald Trump's son-in-law, met with leaders in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman this week.

He had gone to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for talks that covered "increasing cooperation" between the US and Saudi Arabia and Middle East peace efforts, the White House said on Wednesday.

Kushner, US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and US special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, met with Saudi King Salman and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a White House statement on Wednesday said.

"They discussed ways to improve the condition of the entire region through economic investment," the statement said.

A source who spoke on condition of anonymity said the plan presented this week did not appear to take into consideration previously stated Arab demands on the status of Jerusalem, the right of Palestinian refugees to return and illegal Israeli settlements in occupied territory.

Under the Arab Peace Initiative drawn up by Saudi Arabia in 2002, Arab nations offered Israel normal ties in return for a statehood deal with the Palestinians and full Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in 1967.

The source said Kushner, a real estate developer with little experience of international diplomacy or political negotiation, wanted to make a deal first and then agree on details.

The source added that the plan envisages a "substantial" financial contribution from Gulf states, but did not provide details.

Arab concerns

King Salman has dismissed Arab concerns that Saudi Arabia might back a US deal that aligns with Israel on key issues, after the crown prince, who is close to Kushner, reportedly pressed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to support the administration's efforts.

Kushner's meeting with Prince Mohammed on Tuesday was the first since the murder of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October sparked an outcry and tarnished the prince's image.

Jordan, a US ally where a majority of the population are descendants of Palestinians who fled during or after the creation of Israel in 1948, insists that no peace can be achieved without dealing with Jerusalem, where it serves as custodian of Muslim holy sites.

"The Americans are still in the process of presenting various ideas and scenarios but don't appear to have arrived at final parameters of a plan," said a second source in the Gulf region.

"They know that there are final-status issues that are non-starters for regional allies and the Palestinians alike," the source added, referring to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.

Kushner was given responsibility for Israel-Palestinian policy two years ago, but has still not provided concrete details of US efforts, which Trump has dubbed "the deal of the century".

Kushner said in an interview on Monday that Washington would present the peace plan only after Israel's election on April 9, though previous targets have passed without any announcement.

Israel has long rejected any return to what it has described as indefensible boundaries that existed before it seized the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war.