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Saudi Arabia says Trump visit will bolster cooperation, trade: foreign minister

19 Mai 2017

US President Donald Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia this weekend will reinforce the "strategic partnership" between Riyadh and Washington and boost their joint fight against Islamist militants, the kingdom's foreign minister said on Thursday.

Washington provides intelligence as well as aerial refuelling and bombs to the coalition, but former president Barack Obama's administration in December blocked a sale of precision-guided weapons to Saudi Arabia because of concerns over civilian casualties in Yemen.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, will not join an Islamic summit in Saudi Arabia with US President Donald Trump, his office said Friday.

Alani said the new U.S. administration recognises that Saudi Arabia is a "super-regional state" whose help is required to contain Iran and combat "terrorism".

The kingdom hosts millions of Muslim pilgrims annually at holy sites in Mecca and Medina - a fact that Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, noted when announcing Trump's decision to visit Saudi Arabia first.

Prince Al-Jubeir stressed that the Kingdom supports the role of Washington in the fight against ISIS, and noted his country's satisfaction that "President Trump was clear in calling for Iran to comply with United Nations resolutions".

Planning for the foreign trip has proceeded haltingly, with Trump resisting some of the pageantry that is usually a hallmark of a president's travels.

Trump will meet with leaders from more than 50 Muslim countries and take part in the opening of a new center in Saudi Arabia aimed at promoting what the US hopes will be a moderate version of Islam.

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For Saudi Arabia, the most significant event is the planned Arab-Islamic-US summit, where it plans to showcase the kingdom's reach and drawing power, the Associated Press reported on the eve of Trump's departure.

Trump is set to attend a royal banquet and hold bilateral meetings with the Saudi king, the crown prince and the deputy crown prince, as well as hold "a number of bilateral meetings and broader meetings with all Gulf state leaders" during his two days visit to Saudi Arabia, McMaster said.

Having repeatedly condemned Saudi Arabia during his election campaign, the President has made no move to row back the US' friendly relationship with the Sunni Muslim autocracy.

"We have seen Iran's record of aggression increase not decrease" since the nuclear pact, Al-Jubeir said, citing the country's support for "terrorism" and efforts to destabilize other countries. No president has ever put Saudi Arabia first so visibly.

Leaders and representatives of 55 countries - from the southeast Asian sultanate of Brunei to Africa's Niger and heavyweights including Turkey - have been invited by King Salman for Sunday's summit with Trump.

The president is taking that message to Saudi Arabia, the biggest state sponsor of Islamic terrorism in the world, and will urge the monarchy there to tackle the evils of radical Islam head on.

This alliance in turn will create a vital foundation of investment for the children and generations to come through the provision of economic opportunities both internally and externally.

The summit is part of preparations for a new U.S. strategy mobilising the Muslim world against the Sunni jihadists of the Islamic State group, as well as against Iran-backed militias such as Lebanon-based Hezbollah, said Mustafa Alani, a senior adviser to the Gulf Research Centre. The centerpiece of the president's visit to Brussels is now a tour of the new North Atlantic Treaty Organisation building, which will open in about a year.