President Donald Trump, on his first trip abroad, will travel later this month to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Rome in an effort to unite three of the world’s leading religious faiths in the common cause of fighting “intolerance,” terrorism and Iran, White House officials said Thursday.
The trip, during which officials said Trump would meet with Pope Francis, will be followed by Trump’s attendance at the G7 conference of world economic powers, held in Sicily, and a meeting of NATO leaders in Brussels.
In a Rose Garden ceremony to sign an executive order on religious freedom, Trump planned to say that “tolerance is the cornerstone of peace.”
His trip, he said in prepared remarks, “will begin with a truly historic gathering in Saudi Arabia with leaders from all across the Muslim world,” where “we will begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies to combat extremism, terrorism and violence.”
In an apparent reference to his willingness to deal with authoritarian governments without publicly pressuring them on human rights, Trump said: “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 Middle East.”
One of three senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the trip said that Trump’s foreign policy agenda shows that his promise of “America First is fully compatible with American leadership in the world.”
Comparing his policies to those of former president Barack Obama, the official said that Trump has “reversed the disengagement with the world of the previous administration.”
Although “conventional wisdom” is that Trump is “weak on alliances,” the official said that Trump is “strong on alliances,” provided others are willing to contribute their fair share.
The trip will end with a day-long meeting with NATO leaders, specially scheduled in advance of a long-planned summit in Istanbul next year to enable other leaders to meet with Trump.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Karen Deyoung