Trump to embark on maiden visit to Vatican, Israel, Saudi Arabia

Donald Trump on Thursday confirmed his first foreign trip as president will be to Saudi Arabia, followed by Israel and the Vatican.

But speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House on Thursday, Trump confirmed that he will use his first trip overseas since taking office to encompass a sweep of some of the most pressing foreign policy issues of the moment.

"My first foreign trip as president of the United States will be to Saudi Arabia, then Israel, and then to a place that my cardinals love very much, Rome", he says during a meeting in the White House Rose Garden. While "conventional wisdom" is that Trump is "weak on alliances", the official said, Trump is "strong on alliances", provided others are willing to contribute their fair share. Former President Barack Obama visited nine countries by late April 2009, his first three months in office, meeting with allies such as Canada, Britain and Germany.

Senior administration officials said Trump chose Saudi Arabia as his first stop to show his commitment to improving USA relations with the Muslim world.

"I think what the president has demonstrated already and will be able to demonstrate further on this trip is that 'America First' is fully compatible with American leadership in the world", the official said. "Catholic advisers of Donald Trump, who want to resurrect the imagery of a civilizational conflict between Christianity and Islam", he said. Both the Vatican and the White House announced the meeting Thursday.

Saudi Arabia's powerful Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Trump in Washington in March in a visit a senior Saudi advisor called a "historical turning point" in relations.

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Israel will be his second stop before he is received by the Pope at the Vatican on 24 May.

The announcement follows Mr Trump's meeting on Wednesday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and the USA president's pledge to mediate peace efforts.

During the campaign, when asked about Trump's border wall with Mexico, Francis famously said anyone who wants to build a wall is "not Christian".

Mr Trump retorted: "For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful".

The White House said previously that Mr Trump would travel to Belgium and Italy for the G7 summit before Memorial Day.

During planned meetings with Muslim leaders, Trump will introduce an agenda aimed at countering Islamic radicalism, stemming funding to terrorist organizations, identifying ways US allies in the Middle East can "share the burden", countering the influence of Iran and defeating the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria.

  • Adam Floyd