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Trump announces trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Vatican

09 May 2017

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Thursday that an upcoming visit to the kingdom by US President Donald Trump would enhance cooperation between the United States and Muslim countries in the fight against extremism.

White House officials said the visit will be part of a trip that will include stops in Israel and Saudi Arabia before Trump attends a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting in Brussels May 25 and the G7 summit in Taormina on the island of Sicily May 26-27.

Senior administration officials said Trump chose Saudi Arabia as his first stop to show the special status of Saudi Arabia and his commitment to improving U.S. relations with the Muslim world.

The Middle East is to play host to Donald Trump on his first official foreign visit. He added that he had noticed increased support "from day one" from the Trump administration for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia was set to be the first stop on Trump's trip, followed by his May 22 arrival to Israel.

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On the other hand, the official channel Al-Arabiya and the state agency SPA stressed that the visit of May 23 to Riyadh could mark the beginning of the construction of the new foundations to combat terrorism.

During the Israel visit there will be a discussion about "ways to advance a genuine and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians", according to the White House. "We pray for peace", said the US President.

The stop in Brussels is notable as Trump will visit North Atlantic Treaty Organisation headquarters after reversing his position that the organization was obsolete.

In the briefing, three top Trump aides, who spoke on condition of not being named, sounded a slightly defensive note about Trump, whose broadsides against Islam during his campaign drew fire from American Muslims and from some foreign leaders of Muslim-majority states.

Part of the problem, the officials said, stems from the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran, which they view as providing a path to a nuclear weapon for the country, as well as Iran's continued funding of terrorism throughout the region. The stops reaffirmed what have traditionally been close cross-border ties in North America - relationships that have grown tense under Trump amid trade disagreements and a dispute over his proposed border wall with Mexico.

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The president will finish his visit with what White House officials called a "historic" trip to the Vatican.

Trump has already held meetings with high ranking officials from both countries since taking office.

Mr Trump met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House yesterday but gave no details of how he would revive long-stalled peace talks.

During a visit to Mexico, the pontiff said of Mr Trump: "A person who thinks only about building walls. and not building bridges, is not Christian".

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Trump announces trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Vatican