Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Thursday an upcoming visit by U.S. President Donald Trump to the kingdom would enhance cooperation between the United States and Muslim countries in the fight against extremism.
Senior administration officials, briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity, said Saudi Arabia was picked as the first country to counter a narrative that Trump doesn't get along with Saudi officials.
The Republican announced on Thursday (4 May) that he will travel to Saudi Arabia and Israel before flying to the Vatican to meet the Pope.
Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, who is visiting Washington, attributed to the "merits" and "great efforts" of the Deputy Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, that Trump's first global trip as a president is to this Muslim country, said the Foreign Ministry.
Gas up Air Force One, President Trump is taking his first foreign trip since taking office.
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On the day of Trump's inauguration in January, Francis sent the incoming president a telegram urging him not to forget the poor and those in need.
Trump could reverse a trend of increased travel for presidents in the last 50 years or so.
He said in an interview with Reuters last week that Saudi Arabia was not treating the United States fairly and Washington was losing a "tremendous amount of money" defending the kingdom. "This is not the Gospel", the pope said after a visit to Mexico.
"We are hoping to achieve peace between now and then", the official said.
In Israel, Trump will "reinforce the strong alliance that we have with the Israeli people, and then we are going to talk a little bit about the peace process with the Palestinians and how we plan to go forward". The stops were added to the front of a previously scheduled trip to Brussels and Sicily for back-to-back summit meetings held by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the Group of 7 economic powers. Also in Rome, Trump will meet with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who hosts this month's G-7 summit in Sicily.
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Dates were not specified, but it has been reported that the trip will take place in the week of May 21, with the Israel stop on May 22.
A senior White House official said the Saudis approached the Trump administration shortly following the election, in part to "figure out a long term fix for radicalization".
Another aide suggested that the Iran nuclear deal Obama negotiated, which swapped sanctions relief for a nuclear rollback, was an element in what the aides claimed was new regional enthusiasm for Trump.
After receiving a lot visitors at the White House, President Donald Trump is getting ready to make his first foreign trip as president. The Pope has been deeply critical of Trump's campaign rhetoric in the past.
The formal White House announcement also emphasized the Saudi component of the trip.
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