Trump to meet Muslim leaders on first trip abroad

Trump to visit Israel, Saudi Arabia, Vatican, meet with pope
Donald Trump to Wade Into Middle East Politics on First Foreign Trip
Author

06 May, 2017

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Trump announced that he'd be traveling to Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican, Brussels, and Sicily.

Trump will also visit Rome to meet Pope Francis, completing a tour of the centers of the three major monotheistic religions in what aides said was an effort to seek unity against common enemies.

The nine-day trip, during which officials said Trump will meet with Pope Francis, will end with previously announced meetings with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders in Brussels and the Group of Seven world economic powers in Sicily.

Mr Trump clashed with the Pontiff while campaigning to become the Republican nominee for the White House.

Saudi Arabia's powerful Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Trump in Washington in March in a visit a senior Saudi advisor called a "historical turning point" in relations.

Trump's predecessor President Barack Obama had a testy relationship with both Israel and Saudi Arabia, whose leaders viewed him as being concerned less with traditional alliances than with negotiating a deal to rein in Iran's nuclear program.

Critics have charged Trump with ignoring American values and traditional alliances and being too transactional in his dealings with other countries, with some foreign officials expressing frustration with his public comments and tweets.

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"I think what the president has demonstrated already and will be able to demonstrate further on this trip is that 'America First' is fully compatible with American leadership in the world", the official said.

A second senior administration official said that a recent visit to Saudi Arabia revealed an open-mindedness to stepping up and leading in a way the official had not seen in the country since right after 9/11.

Trump on Wednesday hosted Abbas at the White House, pledging to help end the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. That meeting may take place in Bethlehem on the West Bank, a short distance from Jerusalem. His next stop will be the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis.

Criticising the billionaire's anti-immigrant rhetoric, the Pope said: "Anyone, whoever he is, who only wants to build walls and not bridges is not a Christian".

White House officials said Mr Trump will aim to show his "America first" policy is compatible with the USA being a global leader.

Mr Trump retorted: "For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful".


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