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Trump signs $110B defense deal, receives warm welcome in Saudi Arabia

By
Allen Cone and Amy R. Connolly
President Donald J. Trump and Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (R) sign a $110 billion arms deal Saturday at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photo by Saudi Press Agency/EPA
President Donald J. Trump and Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (R) sign a $110 billion arms deal Saturday at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photo by Saudi Press Agency/EPA

May 20 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump signed a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia after arriving in Riyadh on Saturday to start his first trip abroad as president, focusing on strengthening ties to combat terrorism.

Trump and the U.S. delegation, which includes virtually his entire senior White House staff and some of his Cabinet, were treated like royalty in a series of welcoming ceremonies.

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In the deal, Saudi Arabia agrees to buy military equipment from the United States and to hire American companies to build them in Saudi Arabia, the White House said. Saudi Arabia agreed to pay $350 billion over the next decade.

Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner called the president of Lockheed Martin, a major supplier of U.S. military equipment, for a lower price for the radar system as part of the deal, according to The New York Times. Kushner, the husband of Trump's daughter, Ivanka, also a White House staffer, are part of the U.S. delegation.

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"That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs," Trump said in reference to the deal, according to a pool report.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accompanied Trump and King Salman at the signing ceremony.

Lockheed Martin President Marillyn Hewson praised the deal.

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"At Lockheed Martin, we are proud to be part of this historic announcement that will strengthen the relationship between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," Hewson said in a statement. "We are especially proud of how our broad portfolio of advanced global security products and technologies will enhance national security in Saudi Arabia, strengthen the cause of peace in the region, and provide the foundation for job creation and economic prosperity in the U.S. and in the Kingdom."

The deal's letter of intent will "support Saudi Arabia's defense needs" with naval ships, tanks and other vehicles that were part of agreements with former administrations. New items include sophisticated THAAD missile defense systems as well as equuipment to modernize Saudi Arabia's cyberdefense and airborne intelligence-gathering, and secure its borders.

Also, U.S. business leaders at an economic forum taking place simultaneously in Saudi Arabia signed deals potentially worth more than $200 billion over the next 10 years.

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Saudi Arabia's state oil giant Saudi Aramco signed $50 billion of deals with 11 U.S. oil companies, including Haliburton, Jacob's, Schlumberger, Emerson, Honeywell and McDermott International.

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Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir praised ExxonMobil, which Tillerson ran before joining the administration, as "the largest investor" in Saudi Arabia.

Tillerson said the two nations have "like-minded" goals in the security and economic spheres.

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The U.S. delegation arrived in Saudi Arabia after an all-night flight.

They were treated to arrival ceremonies at the airport and Royal Court palace. The festivities included military bands and a flyover of Saudi jets.

During a ceremony, Salman placed the King Abdulaziz al Saud Collar -- Saudi Arabia's highest civilian honor -- around Trump's neck.

The gold medallion previously had been bestowed on Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama.

Trump was honored for "efforts to strengthen the relationship between the two friendly countries" and "his quest to enhance security and peace in the region and the world."

As Trump arrived at Murabba Palace for a royal dinner, several hundred Saudi men in long, white robes danced the Ardha, a traditional sword dance performed on Saudi National Day and in honor of special guests.

Trump, who left behind controversies that have inundated his administration, was welcomed to the country by Salman. Trump and wife Melania descended from Air Force One at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh to an enthusiastic greeting by high-level Saudi officials, a military brass band and a fighter jet flyover.

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"Great to be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Looking forward to the afternoon and evening ahead," Trump tweeted shortly after his arrival.

Salman said on Twitter, "We welcome @POTUS Trump to KSA. Mr. President, your visit will strengthen our strategic cooperation, lead to global security and stability."

On Sunday, Trump is expected to deliver a speech directed to the Muslim world to unite against extremism. After he leaves Saudi Arabia, Trump will travel to Israel, the Vatican and the 28th NATO summit in Belgium.

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