Trump to visit Saudi Arabia, Israel as part of first foreign trip


WASHINGTON: Donald Trump on Thursday announced his first foreign trip as president will include stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican — the spiritual centers of Islam, Judaism and Catholicism.

Trump will add the three stops to an already announced visit to NATO and G7 summits in Brussels and Sicily later this month.

“My first foreign trip as president of the United States will be to Saudi Arabia, then Israel, and then to a place that my cardinals love very much, Rome,” Trump said in a Rose Garden announcement.

Aides described the decision to travel to Saudi Arabia first as an effort to reset relations with the Muslim world.

There, Trump will meet with leaders from across in the Gulf and  broader Middle East in the hope of curbing jihadi terror groups and Iran s growing regional clout.

“Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holiest sites in Islam,” said Trump, who has frequently been accused of fueling Islamophobia.

Trump said in Saudi Arabia he would “begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies to combat extremism, terrorism and violence and to embrace a more just and hopeful future for young Muslims in their countries.”

The aim, one senior administration official said, was to reverse a trend “of America’s disengagement from the world and some of its biggest problems.”

During president Barack Obama’s tenure relations with the Gulf States, and Saudi Arabia in particular, were strained over his administration s engagement with Iran.

Trump s administration — which includes generals who have had bitter personal experience with Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Lebanon — has vowed to push back against Iranian influence across the region.