Trump to reach out to major faiths during trip

US President Donald Trump  will visit Saudi Arabia, the Vatican and Jerusalem in his first foreign trip.
US President Donald Trump will visit Saudi Arabia, the Vatican and Jerusalem in his first foreign trip. PHOTO: AFP

Overseas tour this week includes visits to Saudi Arabia, the Vatican and Israel

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump will urge unity between the world's major faiths on an ambitious first foreign trip that will take him to Saudi Arabia, the Vatican and Jerusalem, the White House has said.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster laid out a detailed itinerary for the "historic trip", due to start late this week, and confirmed that Mr Trump would address a gathering of Muslim leaders on his "hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam".

Previous US leaders have generally chosen a US neighbour such as Canada or Mexico for their first presidential trip, but Mr Trump intends to plunge right into some of the world's most difficult spiritual and political conflicts.

In Saudi Arabia, after a day of talks with King Salman and his crown prince, Mr Trump will speak to a gathering of dozens of leaders from across the Muslim world. "The speech is intended to unite the broader Muslim world against common enemies of all civilisation and to demonstrate America's commitment to our Muslim partners," General McMaster said on Tuesday, adding that Mr Trump would help open a centre to deradicalise extremists.

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Gen McMaster stressed that Mr Trump would be visiting sites associated with the world's great religions, to stress "that we all have to be united and we have to be joined together with an agenda of tolerance and moderation".

After Saudi Arabia, Mr Trump flies to Jerusalem, where he will meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and visit the Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust.

The next day, he will pray at the Western Wall, one of Judaism's holiest sites. Gen McMaster failed to answer a direct question as to whether the US government considered the Western Wall to be within Israeli territory.

COMMITMENT TO MUSLIMS

The speech is intended to unite the broader Muslim world against common enemies of all civilisation and to demonstrate America's commitment to our Muslim partners.

NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER H.R. MCMASTER, on Mr Trump's upcoming speech to a gathering of Muslim leaders.

The same day, he will meet President Mahmoud Abbas, of the Palestinian territories, on the West Bank "where he will convey his administration's eagerness to facilitate an agreement that ends" the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian officials have put their hopes on Mr Trump to revive the moribund peace process, but Israeli officials have been on edge in the run-up to the visit.

After Jerusalem, Mr Trump will head to the Vatican. He will celebrate the contributions of Catholics to America and the world, discuss diplomatic issues with Pope Francis and tour St Peter's Basilica.

After the Vatican, he visits Belgium to meet European Union officials and attend the Nato summit on May 24 and 25. He then heads to Italy and the island of Sicily for the Group of Seven summit on May 26 and 27.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2017, with the headline 'Trump to reach out to major faiths during trip'. Print Edition | Subscribe