President Donald Trump will travel to Saudi Arabia, followed by Israel and the Vatican, in his first foreign trip later this month. The Vatican visit will include a meeting with the Pope, according to a senior administration official.
Trump cast the trip as “historic” and a way to promote religious tolerance in remarks at an executive-order signing in the White House Rose Garden on Thursday. The visit to Saudi Arabia, he said, will include a “truly historic gathering in Saudi Arabia with leaders from all across the Muslim world.”
“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,” Trump said, “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,” he said.
Trump’s tour will conclude with stops at a NATO meeting in Brussels on May 25 and at the G-7 summit in Sicily the following day.
The first foreign visit is typically a milestone for a new president. The stakes are high for White House staff, who are seeking to firm up alliances overseas.
The president’s Vatican stop comes after months of public back-and-forth on immigration with Pope Francis. During the presidential campaign, the pope seemed to question Trump’s professed Christian faith, telling reporters, “A person who only thinks about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”