In Saudi visit, Trump seeks to build bridges with Arabs, Muslims
'The legacy of this summit is a pivotal moment in opening a new dialogue between east and west,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir
Fighting extremism. US President Donald Trump (2nd-R) and First Lady Melania Trump (C) and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (R) arriving at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh. (AFP)
2017/05/21 Issue: 107 Page: 1
The Arab Weekly
London- US President Donald Trump kicked off his first international trip since taking office with a visit to Saudi Arabia, the opening leg of an ambitious Middle East tour.
Trump’s discussions in the region were to focus on fighting terrorism, thwarting Iranian ambitions and searching for Palestinian-Israeli peace.
On Trump’s agenda, an Arab-Islamic-US summit attended by more than 50 Arab and Muslim countries for the pupose of developing a united international front against terrorism. Both sides hope the gathering will establish bridges between the United States and Muslim world.
“Great to be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,” Trump wrote on his official Twitter account upon arrival in the Saudi capital.
“Mr President, your visit will strengthen our strategic cooperation, lead to global security and stability,” Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud wrote on his.
Bilateral meetings between Trump and King Salman and high-ranking Saudi officials began May 20. The meetings were said by the Riyadh side as having focused on “strengthening the close political, economic, security and cultural bonds between the two countries.”
Saudi leaders spared no effort to display a warm welcome. King Salman presented Trump with the Order of King Abdulaziz, the kingdom’s top civilian honour, during a ceremony at the Royal Court attended by Saudi and US officials, including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, as well as first lady Melania Trump and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Trump was also to attend the inauguration of the Global Centre for Combating Extremist Ideology (GCCEI), launched by Riyadh as part of a new initiative aimed at countering and preventing the spread of extremist ideologies.
Embroiled in a series of scandals at home, Trump could use a political victory abroad. The US president has set an ambitious agenda for his first foreign trip, with a goal to lay the groundwork for a new security structure in the Middle East and to bring Israelis and Palestinians closer together.
The summit in Saudi Arabia comes amid efforts from Washington and Riyadh to improve and solidify relations, strained during eight years of US President Barack Obama’s administration.
During that time, Saudi Arabia and its fellow Gulf Arab neighbours viewed Obama’s lack of engagement in the region, coupled with the nuclear deal signed with arch-rival Iran, as a stab in the back, feeling that the deal compromised regional security and empowered the Islamic Republic to continue its destabilising activities.
“We believe that a reduced US presence in the world, and in the region, results in the vacuum being filled by the forces of evil,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.
“The legacy of this summit is a pivotal moment in opening a new dialogue between east and west, promoting tolerance and isolating those who claim that there is animosity between Islam and the world.”