Trump confirms visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia

The US President has confirmed that he will travel to Israel and Saudi Arabia before visiting the Vatican later this month in the first overseas visit since his inauguration.

In an address at the White House, US President Donald Trump said that “tolerance is the cornerstone of peace” and he “will begin [the foreign trip] with a truly historic gathering in Saudi Arabia with leaders from all across the Muslim world”. He said the aim of this meeting would be 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”. Trump may hold talks with Saudi leaders to advance a regional peace initiative with the aim of having something concrete to take to Israel to kick-start Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Trump is expected to arrive in Israel on 22 May, the day before Israel celebrates Jerusalem Day and the 50th anniversary of the reunification of the city. The timing of the visit is particularly auspicious because the President has until the end of May to decide whether to sign a waiver to postpone the US embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In 1995, Congress passed a law mandating the move, but allowing the President to postpone it on national security grounds, every President since has signed the waiver.

A White House statement said President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would discuss “a range of regional issues, including the need to counter the threats posed by Iran and its proxies, and by ISIS and other terrorist groups. They will also explore ways to advance a genuine and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

According to Israeli Channel 2 news, President Trump’s advance team, who visited Israel last week, have indicated he wants to deliver the keynote speech of his Israel visit at iconic site of Masada in the Judean Desert.

On Thursday evening, a White House spokesperson confirmed that Trump had accepted an invitation to visit Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.  After his Middle East visit, Trump is due to travel to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis on 24 May, then to Brussels for a NATO summit on 25 May and a meeting of the G7 in Sicily from 26-28 May.

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