Trump announces his first overseas trip will be to Saudi Arabia

The US president said he will gather in the kingdom with 'leaders from across the Muslim world'.

US president Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the state dining room of the White House in Washington on March 14, 2017. Evan Vucci, File / AP Photo
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WASHINGTON // Donald Trump on Thursday confirmed his first foreign trip as president will be to Saudi Arabia, followed by Israel and the Vatican.

He will begin his first presidential overseas trip with “a truly historic gathering in Saudi Arabia with leaders from all across the Muslim world”, he said. “It is there we will begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies to combat extremism, terrorism and violence and to embrace a more just and hopeful future for young Muslims in their countries.”

The three stops will precede Mr Trump’s already announced visit to Nato and G7 summits in Brussels and Sicily later this month.

The visit comes as Mr Trump wades into Middle East peacemaking, trying to reach a deal where his predecessors and countless diplomats have failed.

From Saudi Arabia, Mr Trump will travel to Israel – leaving open the possibility of an additional stop in the West Bank. On Wednesday he hosted Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, pledging to help end the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

“It is something that I think is frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years,” Mr Trump said, exuding his trademark bravado.

Pope Francis will receive the US president at the Vatican on May 24, the Holy See said, ahead of the G7 summit meeting in Sicily on May 26-27.

* Agence France Presse