Donald Trump meets King Salman in Saudi Arabia amid deals worth $380bn

The United States and the Arabian Gulf reset their relationship with a historic presidential as the US signs the “largest single arms deal in US history” with Saudi Arabia.

Donald Trump is welcomed by King Salman at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 20 May 2017.  Saudi Press Agency / EPA
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Riyadh // Donald Trump arrived in Riyadh on Saturday for a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia hailed as a turning point between the US and the Arab and Islamic worlds.

The US president spent the day meeting King Salman and holding talks with senior US and Saudi officials, as deals in excess of $380 billion (Dh1.4 trillion) were signed, Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir said.

The White House announced the “largest single arms deal in US history” worth US$110 billion (Dh404bn) for Saudi purchases of US defence equipment and services.

“That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States,” Mr Trump said at talks with Saudi King Salman. “Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.”

The US president and his wife Melania were greeted by King Salman on the tarmac after disembarking from Air Force One on a red-carpeted staircase.

On Sunday, the US president will meet GCC leaders before addressing dozens of heads of state from Muslim countries.

The UAE delegation will be led by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, who arrived in Riyadh on Saturday.

Mr Trump will also inaugurate a centre to monitor Islamist extremist groups online on Sunday, with a speech intended to rally the region’s Muslims against terrorist groups and attempt to change perceptions about his stance toward Islam and Muslims.

The US president has been accused of anti-Muslim sentiment, both before and after his election.


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Mr Trump’s first stop on a week-long overseas trip is intended to put in place a framework and fill in details for an enhanced partnership with traditional US Arab allies that involves them taking on a greater share of the responsibility for regional security.

Previous US presidents have made attempts to put such a plan in place, but diverging views and threat perceptions, as well as concerns about the US abandoning the region, have always undermined them.

The Trump administration has taken a much harder line on Iran than its predecessor and has vowed to work with Gulf countries to bolster their ability to deter and contain Iran, which Riyadh considers its greatest security threat and regional rival.

US officials hope the realignment of views on Iran will reassure Arab allies and make them more willing to create a security architecture in the region that requires more from them.

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson said the arms agreements aimed to help the kingdom deal with “malign Iranian influence and Iranian-related threats” on the kingdom’s borders.

“The package of defence equipment and services supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the entire Gulf region,” Mr Tillerson said in Riyadh.

The military package includes tanks, combat ships, missile defence systems, radar and communications, and cybersecurity technology.

Most observers believe the visit will be an overwhelming success because of deep mutual interests on counterterrorism and their respective economies.

The White House hopes the weapons and defence sales for the Saudis as well as a commitment by US companies to invest in Riyadh’s economic diversification plan will have an effect.

On Saturday, Saudi Aramco signed $50bn in agreements and joint ventures with General Electric, Schluberger oil services and Halliburton — US firms whose executives are also in Riyadh for Mr Trump’s visit — according to Aramco chief executive Amin Nasser.

The US president’s visit to the kingdom, which will be followed by talks in Israel, the Vatican and with Nato leaders in Italy, has been met with unprecedented fanfare in Riyadh.

The city’s main roads are lined with Saudi and American flags. Large billboards with pictures of Mr Trump and King Salman carry the slogan given to the visit, “Together we prevail”.

One billboard featured an iconic photograph of King Abdulaziz Al Saud and US president Franklin D Roosevelt meeting aboard a ship near the Suez Canal in 1945, where the security-for-oil deal that has been the backbone of the nations’ relationship was hashed out.

Security was also high in the Saudi capital, with police and military vehicles on the streets.

When Barack Obama visited the kingdom last year — the last of four trips, more than any other US president — the king did not meet him at the airport. The move was seen as a snub redolent of deteriorating ties during the president’s tenure.

Mr Trump’s wife, Melania, also greeted King Salman and was followed by Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner.

Mr Kushner is also a senior White House adviser and headed negotiations with Saudi counterparts led by deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman over the defence sale and Saudi investment plan.

On the tarmac, Mr Trump and King Salman exchanged pleasantries and Mr Trump said it was “a great honour” to be there.

Several jets then flew overhead leaving a red, white and blue trail.

At a later ceremony at the Saudi Royal Court, the king placed the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud, the nation’s highest civilian honour, around Mr Trump’s neck. The medal, given to Trump for his efforts to strengthen ties in the region, has also been bestowed on Vladimir Putin, British prime minister Theresa May and Mr Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

The White House hopes the Riyadh talks will be seen as a victory for Mr Trump’s diplomacy and provide a respite from the growing crisis for his administration in Washington, where daily revelations have added to the furore and FBI investigation over his campaign’s alleged ties to Moscow.

*With additional reporting by Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Bloomberg


Trump in Saudi Arabia

In pictures: Trump enjoys coffee with King Salman on arrival

Correspondent: Trump's trip met with much anticipation

Business: Wave of trade deals expected to be signed

Editorial: Optimism takes hold in Riyadh