Trump touches down in Saudi Arabia

The US President has begun his first overseas tour - a marathon eight-day trip that will see him make stops in Israel, Belgium and Italy.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Trump is to give a speech on "hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam" to some 50 Arab and Muslim leaders on Sunday.

US President Donald Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, the first stop on his maiden international trip since taking office in January.

Top regional ally Saudi Arabia has said the trip will conclude political and commercial agreements and will help bolster the joint fight against militancy.

Saudi and pan-Arab news channels showed Air Force One on the tarmac in Riyadh in front of a red carpet flanked by Saudi soldiers.

TRT World's John Brain has more from Riyadh.

The White House hopes the trip will shift focus away from domestic controversies and on to his foreign policy agenda.

Trump will make stops next week in Israel, Belgium and Italy. The trip has been billed as a chance to visit places sacred to three of the world's major religions while including meetings with Arab, Israeli and European leaders.

A change in policy

Before departing, the president tweeted he would be "strongly protecting American interests" on his trip to the Middle East and Europe, that presents a major diplomatic test.

While his predecessor Barack Obama was viewed with suspicion by Gulf Arab states for his tilt towards their regional rival Iran, Trump is likely to take a harder line against Tehran.

That, together with a more muted focus on human rights and the likely announcement of new arms deals, should please Washington's traditional allies in the Arab Gulf.

"He's going to be tougher on Iran," said Philip Gordon, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

"He's not going to lecture them on democracy and human rights," he added.

Fighting hatred

Trump's relations with the wider Islamic world are still strained by his travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority nations.

So all eyes will be on a speech on Islam that the president is scheduled to deliver to dozens of Muslim leaders at a summit in Riyadh on Sunday.

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

Troubles at home

The domestic mood was grim following news that the FBI's investigation into his campaign's ties with Russia extends to a current senior White House official.

Former FBI director James Comey has agreed to publicly testify about the probe, piling pressure on the White House as fresh allegations emerged about Trump calling him a "nut job" in a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last weekç

Trump is also under fire for saying the sacking of Comey, who was investigating alleged Russian interference in the US presidential elections in November, had relieved "great pressure."

TRT World's Ediz Tiyansan has more on that story.

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies