WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump announced his first official trip overseas during the National Day of Prayer at the White House on Thursday, a trip to include stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Vatican.
In front of around 150 faith leaders, the President described some of his plans and goals for the trip. Immediately afterward, senior White House officials briefed reporters on additional details of the President’s trip that will directly precede an already planned trip to the G7 summit.
The Saudi Arabia visit comes first on the trip, as the nation’s leaders are the custodians of two specific mosques where leaders of the Muslim world will convene and the White House hopes for heavy dialogue on issues in that part of the world according to one senior White House official.
The official said during a Thursday post-announcement briefing:
President Trump has said a lot of things that a lot of the leaders in that region agree with and they all want to see a long term stability [return] to the region and they want to see a way for the young Muslims in that region to have economic opportunity, and to live free and tolerant in the way that they all think could be, that they all aspire to.
Following Saudi Arabia, the President will go on to Israel, where they will work to reinforce the strong alliance with the Israeli people. During the trip, officials will be talking about the peace process and the Palestinians including talk of what a good future would be for the region.
From Israel, the President will fly to the Vatican for a meeting with Pope Francis. The official expressed hope that the visit would make a big impact around the world and for people of faith.
A second senior White House official told reporters that the trip is expected to demonstrate:
‘America First’ is fully compatible with American leadership in the world and circumstances in the Middle East, but really that have bled over into Europe and [are] globally associated with radical Islamist terrorist groups. These Takfiri and Salafi jihadist groups… are victimizing so many in the region and beyond. [The trip will also address] those problems associated with these terrorist groups combined with Iran’s subversive and maligned behavior across the region.
The second senior White House official said the trip will also allow the President to advance dialogue in areas like trade through ideas such as “reciprocity.” Referencing the U.S. bombing of a Syrian air base, the official said, “that wasn’t just a one-off strike, it was the opportunity for the President to emphasize what was necessary to begin to reduce the suffering of the Syrian people.”
A third senior White House official spoke of an emboldened Iran leading other Middle East countries to come to the table in a unique way. The official said many Middle East leaders are taking a different kind of responsibility, though qualified it with the reality that there are many challenges in producing “real deliverables.”
One of the officials eluded to significant announcements to be made on the trip:
As we get there, we’re hoping to make certain announcements and we’re hoping [it will] be a very substantive trip that will set the framework for how we can accomplish long-term strategic objectives [for the] President and leaders in that region, so that we can both have short-term, medium-term and long-term wins in the fight to make the Middle East a place where people can have economic opportunities, safety, and live with religious tolerance.
The official added that more details would come out in the coming days. Some important things may remain confidential, as privacy helps dialogue.
“The President is very much about results,” said one of the officials, “tangible results in the area of countering radical Islamic ideology, as well as tangible results in isolating terrorist organizations from other sources of strength and support, including financial support.”
This cooperative effort is in its beginning stages but is being structured in a way intended to produce measurable results, according to one of the officials.
In preparation for the trip, the National Security Council has delivered summaries of evaluations of the highest-potential areas of cooperation to the President. One official told Breitbart New that, for years, Israel received blame for unrest in the Middle East, but now more countries are willing to accept that “this catastrophe has been brought on by the twin effects of these Salafi jihadist organizations associated with Al Qaeda, Al Nusra, so forth, as well as ISIS and also the Iranian efforts of subversion and support for militias…murderous regimes across the region.”
The Vatican released the following statement upon news that the President would visit there:
His Holiness Pope Francis will receive the Hon. Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, on Wednesday, 24 May 2017, at 8:30 a.m. in the Apostolic Palace. President Trump will then meet with His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.
During the morning National Day of Prayer event, the President described the trip to the faith leaders gathered:
Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holiest sites in Islam and it is there that we will begin to construct 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.
Our task is not to dictate to others how to live, but to build a coalition of friends and partners who share the goal of fighting terrorism and bringing safety, opportunity, and stability to the war ravaged middle east.
Trump is expected to go from the three-country stint on to an already planned visit to Brussels, Belgium for a meeting with NATO leaders on May 25. From there he will go on to the G7 summit in Sicily, Italy on May 26.
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