Trump arrives in Riyadh, meets with King Salman

Donald Trump has reached Saudi Arabia on Saturday for his very first tour of a Middle Eastern country as USA president.

Saudi Arabia is the first stop on a four-nation, five-stop tour that will also take Trump to Israel, Italy and Belgium before President Donald Trump returns to the White House at the end of next week.

After arriving with an escort of soldiers on horseback, Trump was welcomed to the court to the strains of the American national anthem. After two days of meetings in Riyadh, Trump will travel to Israel, have an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, and meet with allies at a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Brussels and the Group of 7 wealthy nations in Sicily.

The two leaders shared a long drive from the airport to central Riyadh, where the President is staying, and Trump was due to spent much of Saturday in meetings with Salman and his government, including the powerful deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. The 81-year-old King Salman, who used a cane for support, was brought to the steps of the plane on a golf cart. A military brass band played, cannons boomed and seven Saudi jets flew over in V-formation, trailing red, white and blue smoke.

Trump is embarking upon his first worldwide trip at a moment of deep uncertainty for his young presidency. "Great to be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia". He later handed the US President Saudi Arabia's highest civilian honour, the King Abdulaziz medal.

The honor has also been bestowed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama.

The visit comes as Mr Trump faces uproar at home following his sacking of Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey.

The New York Times reported Trump had called Comey a "nut job" in a private meeting last week in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak.

President Trump's Saudi royal hosts have pulled out all the stops for this visit. Saudi's ruling family grew deeply frustrated with Obama's detente with Iran and his restrained approach on Syria. The king did not greet Obama at the airport during his final visit to the nation previous year.

Trump's criticism of the nuclear deal Iran reached with the US and five other world powers in 2015 pleases both Saudi Arabia and Israel, who accused Obama on "going soft" on Tehran.

First lady Melania Trump emerged from the front of the plane with the president, for their first public appearance overseas, dressed in a black long-sleeved pantsuit and an oversized gold belt, her brown hair hanging down over her shoulders. Former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton also didn't wear headscarves during their visits in 2008, 2012 and 2015.

For a president who campaigned on an "America First" platform, the trip is a crucial moment for USA allies to size up his commitment to decades-long partnerships while trying to move behind his previous controversial statements.

"I will only spend one day in Saudi Arabia and I will come back to Indonesia in the evening", said Jokowi as quoted by a statement released by the Presidential Office on Saturday. The agreement will provide tanks, ships, and missile defense systems to the kingdom in an attempt to bolster its regional military prowess.

In a tweet, King Salman praised Mr Trump, adding that he hoped his visit would "strengthen our strategic co-operation".

Ahead of Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia, where he will be accompanied by his wife Melania and daughter Ivanka, Washington and Riyadh issued their first "joint terrorist designation" - blacklisting a leader of the Iranian-backed Lebanese armed Shiite movement Hezbollah.

The trip has been billed by the White House as a chance to visit places sacred to three of the world's major religions while giving Trump time to meet with Arab, Israeli and European leaders.

According to a draft of a speech obtained by AP, he will say: "This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations". It notably refrains from mentioning democracy and human rights - topics Arab leaders often view as USA moralizing - in favor of the more limited goals of peace and stability.

  • Leroy Wright