Trump departs for first foreign trip as US president

In what will be a closely-watched eight-day trip to Middle East and Europe, Donald Trump will meet with Saudi King Salman, Pope Francis and France's new president, Emmanuel Macron.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump make their way to board Air Force One before departing from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on May 19, 2017.

US President Donald Trump jetted off on his maiden foreign trip as US president on Friday, departing from Joint Base Andrews in the Washington suburbs en route to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Trump and his wife Melania left on Air Force One on what will be an ambitious six-stop trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Palestine, the Vatican, Brussels and Sicily.

During the dense eight-day trip, Trump will be having countless face-to-face meetings with dignitaries including Saudi King Salman, Pope Francis and France's new leader, Emmanuel Macron.

White House staff cast the 70-year-old's "friendly but candid" style as an asset in his dealings with foreign leaders.

But as the Republican takes his first steps as head of state on the world stage, his every word, action and tweet will be under the microscope.

His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner -- two of his closest advisors -- were also on board Air Force One.


Trump's delivery of a speech on Islam before dozens of Muslim leaders gathered in the Saudi capital could prove a far more delicate exercise, given the tensions sparked by his travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority nations.

His travel ban orders are, however, stuck in the US courts.

"I'll speak with Muslim leaders and challenge them to fight hatred and extremism, and embrace a peaceful future for their faith," Trump promised ahead of the trip.

In Israel, Trump has hopes of reviving the stalled peace process, meeting both his "friend" Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in Bethlehem.

Trump's meeting with Pope Francis -- two men at odds on everything from climate change to refugee policy -- remains highly unpredictable, although the pontiff says he will give America's bullish leader an open-minded hearing.

Finally, the president's trip will wrap up in Europe where will meet members of the North Atlantic Alliance in Brussels, before heading on to a G7 summit in Taormina, Italy.

TRTWorld and agencies