Donald Trump lands in Saudi Arabia for 'big foreign trip'

by 20/05/2017 04:12:00 0 comments 1 Views
Donald Trump lands in Saudi Arabia for 'big foreign trip'
Donald Trump lands in Saudi Arabia for 'big foreign trip'
  • President touched down in Saudi Arabia after flying overnight on Air Force One to Middle Eastern state
  • After two days of meetings in Riyadh, during which he is set to call for Arab nations to help in the fight against ISIS, Trump will travel to Israel
  • He will then have an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Wednesday
  • Trump has become the only US president to make Saudi his first overseas stop

President Donald Trump has landed in Saudi Arabia as he begins his first trip abroad since taking office.

He touched down in the Middle Eastern country this morning, hours after tweeting about his excitement for his first 'big foreign trip'.

Trump flew to the capital Riyadh overnight on Air Force One - becoming the only president to make Saudi Arabia, or any majority Muslim country, his first stop overseas as president.

His arrival following a 6,700-mile flight was met with the pomp usually reserved for a Papal welcome in South America. 

The president got the red carpet treatment – literally – and airport workers took off their shoes before manicuring it with brooms in 97-degree heat.

There were 30 U.S. flags at the ready, a tiny fraction of the thousands that line streets and highways between the airport and the city center.

A 90-person Royal Saudi Air Forces honor guard practiced rifle drills and then stood at attention while Trump and his kingly escort ambled toward the terminal.

He heard an eight-bugle fanfare, watched a seven-jet flyover trailing red, white and blue smoke. And cannon fire. Lots of cannon fire, which didn't cease until Trump and King Salman were safely inside.

Inside the terminal, the fragrant smell of oud filled the air as workers burned the aromatic wood in charcoal lamps.

Donald Trump, pictured with his wife Melania, touched down Saturday in the Middle Eastern country after tweeting about his excitement for his first 'big foreign trip'

Donald Trump, pictured with his wife Melania, touched down Saturday in the Middle Eastern country after tweeting about his excitement for his first 'big foreign trip'

The president got the red carpet treatment – literally – and airport workers took off their shoes before manicuring it with brooms in 97-degree heat

The president got the red carpet treatment – literally – and airport workers took off their shoes before manicuring it with brooms in 97-degree heat

Trump and First Lady Melania take part in a welcome ceremony by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (right) upon arrival at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh today, accompanied by Prince Khaled bin Salman (center)

Trump and First Lady Melania take part in a welcome ceremony by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (right) upon arrival at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh today, accompanied by Prince Khaled bin Salman (center)

Donald Trump is pictured with his wife Melania meeting King Salman of Saudi Arabia

Donald Trump is pictured with his wife Melania meeting King Salman of Saudi Arabia

Despite his domestic troubles, Trump was expected to get a warm reception in Saudi Arabia, where he is pictured centre left with the country's King Salman, pictured centre right

Despite his domestic troubles, Trump was expected to get a warm reception in Saudi Arabia, where he is pictured centre left with the country's King Salman, pictured centre right

The scheduling choice is designed in part to show respect to the region after months of harsh anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric.

His first overseas speech is expected to frame the global fight against ISIS and other Islamist terror groups as a 'battle between good and evil' - but drafts suggests he will not use the phrase 'radical Islamic terrorism'.

Trump will also call on leaders in the Middle East to 'drive out terrorists from your places of worship'. 

Trump will face questions over the weekend about the wisdom of establishing partnerships with a government known for human rights violations and for its Medieval treatment of women.

Females cannot drive cars in the kingdom, and their every move, from travel to shopping, is overseen by male family members.

On Saturday the only females seen among the welcome retinue were a small girl presenting flowers and an African-American woman, who turned out to be a U.S. Secret Service agent.

Signs of American caution are everywhere as the president who once campaigned on the strength of excluding Muslims from the U.S. ventured into the nation whose king partners in construction with the Bin Laden Group. 

The US president was welcomed by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (right) upon arrival at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh this morning

The US president was welcomed by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (right) upon arrival at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh this morning

White House officials hope the trip marks an opportunity for Trump, pictured with Saudi Arabia's King Salman, to recalibrate after one of the most difficult stretches of his new presidency

White House officials hope the trip marks an opportunity for Trump, pictured with Saudi Arabia's King Salman, to recalibrate after one of the most difficult stretches of his new presidency

'President Trump understands that America First does not mean America alone,' said H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security adviser. The President is pictured with King Salman of Saudi Arabia

'President Trump understands that America First does not mean America alone,' said H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security adviser. The President is pictured with King Salman of Saudi Arabia

Donald Trump flew to the capital Riyadh overnight on Air Force One, pictured

Donald Trump flew to the capital Riyadh overnight on Air Force One, pictured

U.S. military snipers stood guard on nearby jetways. A duplicate Air Force One 747 jet stood by, lest Trump's schedule should be waylaid by engine trouble.

Wearing a dark suit and a bright blue tie, the president descended stairs from his exclusive plane with first lady Melania Trump, after staff including his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner – arm in arm – exited from the rear of the aircraft.

Trump bantered with the king about the Cleveland Clinic, which a previous Saudi monarch chose for cardiac surgery in the 1970s.

Then came the thumbs-up, perhaps a sign of a rocky week ahead for the china-shop bull Americans elected in November. 

For a president who campaigned on an 'America First' platform, the trip to Saudi Arabia, pictured,is a crucial moment for US allies to size up his commitment to decades-long partnerships

For a president who campaigned on an 'America First' platform, the trip to Saudi Arabia, pictured,is a crucial moment for US allies to size up his commitment to decades-long partnerships

The last four presidents confirmed their first trips abroad to Canada and Mexico, but Trump is going big before going home

The president's stop in Saudi Arabia kicks off an ambitious international debut.

After two days of meetings in Riyadh, Trump will travel to Israel, have an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, and meet with allies at a NATO summit in Brussels and the Group of 7 wealthy nations in Sicily.

For a president who campaigned on an 'America First' platform, the trip is a crucial moment for US allies to size up his commitment to decades-long partnerships.

'President Trump understands that America First does not mean America alone,' said H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security adviser.

President Donald Trump said Friday, after a quiet morning at the White House he was 'getting ready for my big foreign trip'

President Donald Trump said Friday, after a quiet morning at the White House he was 'getting ready for my big foreign trip'

The Saudi government is playing up the Trump visit, hinting at cooperation with the U.S. to fight Islamic radicalism in the region

The Saudi government is playing up the Trump visit, hinting at cooperation with the U.S. to fight Islamic radicalism in the region

'Prioritising American interests means strengthening alliances and partnerships that help us extend our influence and improve the security of the American people.'

During his tour, Trump will deliver a high-stakes speech about Islam in the heart of Saudi Arabia, meet with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his nemesis Mahmoud Abbas and take in an audience with Pope Francis.

And that's before a NATO summit and a meeting of the G7 leaders.

Trump's itinerary is heavy with religious symbolism. He'll visit the birthplace of Islam, the Jewish homeland and the Vatican. Officials say the message is 'unity.'

'He strongly believes that it is the strength of the faith of people in these religions that will stand up and ultimately be victorious over ... forces of terrorism,' Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.  

PRESIDENT TRUMP SET TO ABANDON HARSH ANTI-MUSLIM RHETORIC HE USED DURING CAMPAIGN 

Donald Trump's first overseas speech as president will frame the global fight against ISIS and other Islamist terror groups as 'a battle between good and evil' – but omits the phrase 'radical Islamic terrorism' – according to a draft the Associated Press reported seeing late on Friday.

Last year the president repeatedly lambasted his predecessor Barack Obama and his Democratic election opponent Hillary Clinton for avoiding that phrase, but he appears prepared to follow suit when he addresses a multi-nation Muslim summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

The speech reportedly calls for unity in the fight against radicalism in the Muslim world, urging Arab leaders to 'drive out the terrorists from your places of worship.'

Abandoning some of the harsh anti-Muslim rhetoric of his presidential campaign, the draft envisions new partnerships with America's traditional allies in the Middle East. It notably refrains from mentioning democracy and human rights – topics Arab leaders often view as U.S. moralizing – in favor of the more limited goals of peace and stability.

'We are not here to lecture – to tell other peoples how to live, what to do or who to be. We are here instead to offer partnership in building a better future for us all,' the document reads.

Trump left Washington Friday afternoon for Riyadh, the first stop on his maiden trip overseas trip as president. The marathon trip will also take him to Israel, the Vatican, Belgium and Italy. The trip is a key test of the president's diplomatic skills and a chance to add substance to a foreign policy he has described broadly as 'America First.'

Two different sources provided the AP with copies of the draft of his remarks, billed as a marquee speech of the trip. One version, obtained late Thursday, included edits with comments from an administration official, indicating it was still a work in progress.

Earlier, Donald Trump was pictured departing on the five-stop diplomacy tour through Europe and the Middle East that will cover 15,600 miles in the air over the course of nine days

Earlier, Donald Trump was pictured departing on the five-stop diplomacy tour through Europe and the Middle East that will cover 15,600 miles in the air over the course of nine days

United States flag is seen as royal guard patrols the hotel where US President Donald Trump will stay in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Friday

United States flag is seen as royal guard patrols the hotel where US President Donald Trump will stay in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Friday

The White House confirmed the draft was authentic, but cautioned the president had not yet signed off on the final product.

'The president has not seen this draft,' White House spokesman Sean Spicer said. 'This is one of five drafts that have been written by various people. He continues to take input and is writing a final version.'

Trump's campaign was marked by his anti-Islamic rhetoric and his administration has twice tried to impose a travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries. 'I think Islam hates us,' he said at one point.

The draft of the speech includes no mention of 'radical Islamic terrorism' – a phrase that candidate Trump regularly criticized opponent Clinton and Obama for shying away from. His speech calls terrorism a widespread problem plaguing everyone who loves peace.

He positions himself as an 'emissary for the American people, to deliver a message of friendship and hope,' according to the draft.

'This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations. This is a battle between those who seek to obliterate human life and those who seek to protect it,' the text reads. 'This is a battle between good and evil.'

Trump may seem an unlikely messenger to deliver an olive branch to the Muslim world.

Only a week after taking office, he signed an executive order to ban immigrants from seven countries – Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen – from entering the United States, a decision that sparked widespread protests at the nation's airports and demonstrations outside the White House. That ban was blocked in federal court, prompting the administration to sign a second one.   

The second version, which dropped Iraq from the list, is also blocked in court, though Trump has said the measure is needed for the nation's security. As a campaigner, he called for a 'total and complete shutdown' of the entry of Muslims to the United States 'until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on,' insisting that a sizable segment of the Muslim population has 'great hatred toward Americans.'

His Saudi speech is aimed at the nations represented at an Arab and Muslim leaders' summit.

Trump intends to condemn Syria's President Bashar Assad for committing 'unspeakable crimes against humanity' and Iran for contributing to spiraling violence in Syria.

'All nations of conscience in the Middle East must work together to roll back Iran's destabilizing influence, restore a more stable balance of power in the region, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and responsible government they deserve,' the draft reads.

Iran and Syria were not invited to the summit, and they are not part of a regional military alliance that Saudi Arabia is establishing to fight terrorism. The kingdom backs efforts to topple the Syrian government, which counts Iran and Russia as its closest allies. 

The US and Saudi Arabian flags are seen flying together in the country's capital Riyadh

The US and Saudi Arabian flags are seen flying together in the country's capital Riyadh

White House officials hope the trip marks an opportunity for Trump to recalibrate after one of the most difficult stretches of his new presidency.

The White House badly bungled the president's stunning firing of FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing the federal investigation into possible ties between Trump's campaign and Russia.

On Wednesday, the Justice Department relented to calls from Democrats to name a special counsel, tapping former FBI chief Robert Mueller to lead the probe.

As Trump flew to Saudi Arabia, more reports stemming from the Russia investigation surfaced.

The New York Times reported that Trump called Comey 'a real nut job' while discussing the ongoing investigation with two Russian officials visiting the White House earlier this month.

He also told them that firing Comey had 'taken off' the 'great pressure' he was feeling from the investigation, the Times reported.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that an unidentified senior Trump adviser was being considered a 'person of interest' in the law enforcement investigation.

In addition, Comey agreed to testify at an open hearing of the Senate intelligence committee in the near future, the panel said.

Despite his domestic troubles, Trump was expected to get a warm reception in Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom's ruling family grew deeply frustrated with former President Barack Obama's detente with Iran and his restrained approach to the conflict in Syria.

In a sweetener for Saudi Arabia, U.S. officials said the Trump administration plans to announce $110 billion in advanced military equipment sales and training to the kingdom during the president's trip.

The package includes tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, radar and communications and cyber security technology.

Trump will spend much of Saturday meeting with King Salman and other members of the royal family, culminating with a banquet dinner at the Murabba Palace.

He and First Lady Melania Trump were seen boarding Air Force One on Friday afternoon at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland

He and First Lady Melania Trump were seen boarding Air Force One on Friday afternoon at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are also on the nine day trip that has its first stop in Saudi Arabia

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are also on the nine day trip that has its first stop in Saudi Arabia

Windblown: It wasn't revealed that Ivanka would be traveling with her husband and father until the last minute 

Windblown: It wasn't revealed that Ivanka would be traveling with her husband and father until the last minute 

Vice President Mike Pence (right) was on hand to see President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump off

The president, the first lady, Chief of staff Reince Priebus, Jared Kushner, and Trump's eldest daughter, Ivanka, left the White House aboard Marine One just before 2pm Eastern

The President waves goodbye, hopefully to leave the turmoil of the last week behind as he leaves for his first foreign trip

The President waves goodbye, hopefully to leave the turmoil of the last week behind as he leaves for his first foreign trip

The President and Vice President share some last words as Pence gets set to say farewell to the departing leader

The President and Vice President share some last words as Pence gets set to say farewell to the departing leader

The president, the first lady Melania Trump and Vice President Pence  left the White House aboard Marine One just before 2pm Eastern

The president, the first lady Melania Trump and Vice President Pence  left the White House aboard Marine One just before 2pm Eastern

The first couple will spend 12 hours in the air on their overnight flight to Saudi Arabia

The first couple will spend 12 hours in the air on their overnight flight to Saudi Arabia

On Sunday, he'll hold meetings with more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders heading converging on Riyadh for a regional summit focused largely on combating the Islamic State and other extremist groups.

Trump dodged one potential land mine when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has been indicted on war crime and genocide charges, announced that he would not attend the summit for personal reasons.

The centerpiece of Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia will be a speech Sunday at the Arab-Islamic-American summit.

White House aides view the address as a counter to Obama's 2009 speech to the Muslim world, which Trump advisers view as too apologetic for U.S. actions in the region.