Trump will travel to Middle East in first trip abroad

By Eric DuVall  |  May 4, 2017 at 1:14 PM
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May 4 (UPI) -- On his first trip abroad since taking office, President Donald Trump will travel to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican later this month, each central to one of the world's three major monotheistic religions.

Trump will first travel to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, where he will summon leaders of the Muslim world to establish "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," he said.

From there, Trump will travel to Israel, a nation where he has pledged to redouble support after years of tense relations with the Obama administration.

By visiting both an Arab nation and Israel, Trump will restore the tradition of demonstrating balance in trips to the Middle East. When Obama first traveled to the region, he did not visit Israel, but did make a major speech in Cairo. The snub created tension that begat eight years of frosty relations between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Trump has pledged to restart negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians with the goal of brokering a lasting peace deal that has eluded generations of presidents before him.

Upon arriving at the Vatican, Trump will have an audience with Pope Francis, leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. Trump was critical of Francis during the presidential campaign after the pope's comments about the treatment of refugees were widely interpreted as pointed at the candidate's tough rhetoric and strict immigration proposals.

The destinations were added to the beginning of a previously scheduled trip to Europe for meetings with allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels. From there, Trump and other leaders will head to Sicily, where the Group of 7 economic powers are scheduled to meet two days later.

Judged against the standards set by recent presidents, Trump had been slow to make his first major foreign trip. By this point in his first term, former President Barack Obama had traveled abroad three times, visiting nine countries.

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