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Saudi says Trump visit to bolster security, trade ties

19 May 2017

President Donald Trump is to depart Friday on an eight-day trip to the Middle East and Europe. Riyadh is the first stop of his foreign tour. He is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia, Israel and Rome.

Djerejian, who served in eight Republican and Democratic administrations, told Arab News that Trump's trip "demonstrates USA willingness to engage with traditional allies in the Gulf and in the Middle East".

While it is "an important signal that Trump is willing to get engaged, in between word and deed there can be a big gap", Djerejian said. He angered the Saudis for what they saw as his abandonment of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, a longtime US ally, during the Arab Spring protests; his hesitation to intervene directly in the Syria conflict; and his pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran. "Just think of how long it takes to shake people by the hand".

As far as one can tell from many press accounts that are based on discussions with Washington and NY insiders, Trump lacks decisively clear Middle East "policies" right now, and has only attitudes towards major issues in the region - and these attitudes could change any day, and change again a few days later. The kingdom is also "in the final stage of negotiating a $100 billion arms deal", Reuters reported, citing a White House official.

The effect of this is what we have seen happen in the past decade or so: several countries collapsed in civil wars, others fragmented along sectarian lines, Russia, Iran and Turkey have gained major footholds in the Arab region, and refugeehood, emigration and terrorism have emerged as the fastest growing sectors in our societies.

He also reportedly wrote Trump's inauguration speech.

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His aim, his national security adviser General HR McMaster says, is "to broadcast a message of unity to America's friends and to the faithful of the followers of three of the world's greatest religions".

All are members of the US coalition striking Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, as well as among the world's top energy producers and biggest military spenders.

Talks between Israel and the Palestinians have stalled in recent years - the most recent round fell apart in April 2014.

Although federal courts have blocked Trump's proposed ban, Saudi elites and others in the region "have not been particularly concerned about the travel ban", Jordan said, because they agree that vetting of travelers is flawed in the target countries. He will also visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

For Riyadh, the key symbolic and material outcome of the meetings with Mr Trump is a U.S. commitment to counter its regional arch-rival Tehran, analysts said. Both men hold opposing views on climate change and immigration.

President Hassan Rouhani faces a tough battle for re-election against hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who has called for a much tougher stance against the West and says a 2015 nuclear deal has not improved the lives of the poor.

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Trump will have an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

The President will meet Belgium's King Philippe and Prime Minister Charles Michel, as well as heads of state and government of the country on May 25.

In Brussels, Trump will attend a meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the World War II-era alliance which Trump has repeatedly mused about abandoning because member states weren't paying their fair share.

Jubeir said Trump has been "very clear about the need to push back against Iran". It's about leakers working to undermine the president. Many presidents have tried to use statesmanship overseas to distract from problems at home, but the Trump brand of diplomacy has some analysts anxious that the nine-day tour of allies in the Mideast and Europe might only make his troubles worse.

Trump is then expected to reaffirm his commitment to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation while unveiling the security bloc's memorial, in front of a piece of the Berlin Wall and segment of the World Trade Center. That afternoon he will speak at the unveiling of a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation memorial, where he "will reaffirm America's commitment to the alliance" and repeat his theme that all of its members must share responsibility and burdens, McMaster said. Secretary of Defense James Mattis will accompany Trump for a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting and dinner. That includes France's newly elected President Emmanuel Macron, who denounced Trump's musings on abandoning the Paris climate treaty, a likely point of contention in Sicily.

The Saudi and the American sides are expected to sign a host of political and economic agreements.

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