TRUMP SEEKS TO BUILD TIES IN VISIT
US president warmly welcomed in first stop of marathon tour
RIYADH was brought to the steps of the plane on a golf cart. The two leaders exchanged pleasantries and Trump said it was “a great honour” to be there. Several jets then flew overhead, leaving a red, white and blue trail.
Hours later, Trump tweeted for the first time on international soil as president, writing: “Great to be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Looking forward to the afternoon and evening ahead.”
White House officials hope the trip gives Trump the opportunity to recalibrate after one of the most difficult stretches of his young presidency.
Despite his domestic troubles, Trump was expected to get a warm reception in Saudi Arabia.
The kingdom offered Trump an elaborate welcome. Billboards featuring images of Trump and the king dotted the highways here, emblazoned with the motto “Together we prevail”.
Trump’s luxury hotel was bathed in red, white and blue lights and, at times, an image of the president’s face.
Trump and the king met briefly in the airport terminal for a coffee ceremony before the president headed to his hotel.
Melania Trump wore a black pantsuit with a golden belt and did not cover her head for the arrival, consistent with custom for foreign dignitaries visiting Saudi Arabia. In 2015, her husband had, in a tweet, criticised former first lady Michelle Obama for not wearing a headscarf.
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.
“Trump understands that America First does not mean America alone,” said National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
“Prioritising American interests means strengthening alliances and partnerships that help us extend our influence and improve the security of the American people.”
In a sweetener for Saudi Arabia, US officials said the Trump administration plans to announce US$110 billion (RM484 billion) in military equipment sales to the kingdom. The package includes tanks, ships, missile defence systems, radar and cybersecurity technology.
After spending much of yesterday meeting with King Salman and the royal family, Trump ended the day at a banquet dinner at the Murabba Palace.
Today, he will hold meetings with more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders converging here 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 today 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 criticised as too apologetic for US actions in the region.
Trump will call for unity in the fight against radicalism, casting the challenge as a “battle between good and evil”, and urging Arab leaders to “drive out the terrorists from your places of worship”.
The speech notably refrains from mentioning democracy and human rights — topics Arab leaders view as US moralising.
It also abandons anti-Muslim rhetoric and does not contain the words “radical Islamic terror”, a phrase Trump repeatedly criticised Hillary Clinton for not using during last year’s campaign. AP
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania being welcomed on arrival in Riyadh yesterday. With them is Saudi Arabia King Salman Abdulaziz al-Saud.