Donald Trump arrives in Saudi Arabia for first trip overseas as president

Omar Al-Bashir

Donald Trump arrives in Saudi Arabia for first trip overseas as president

President Donald Trump arrived in the Middle East on Saturday, touching down in Saudi Arabia to begin his first trip overseas, a visit aimed at forging stronger alliances to combat terrorism while seeking to push past the series of controversies threatening to engulf his young administration.

Trump's stop in an enthusiastic Saudi capital is the first in a nine-day, five-country swing across the Middle East and Europe.

Nonetheless, Trump, whose long trail of Twitter messages often comes back to haunt him, tweeted his displeasure over Mrs. Obama's decision to appear bare-headed in 2015.

Shortly after the president touches down in Riyadh aboard Air Force One, he will engage in a series of diplomatic meetings with King Salman and senior Saudi officials.

Trump can expect a warm reception when he arrives in the oil-rich kingdom for talks with King Salman, but the domestic mood was grim following news that the FBI's investigation into his campaign's ties with Russian Federation extends to a current senior White House official.

Trump and the 81-year-old Salman were seen in friendly conversation inside the Royal Terminal at the airport just after Trump touched down.

Later Saturday, Trump received the nation's highest civilian honor from Salman. His firing of Comey and the appointment of a special counsel to investigate his campaign's ties to Russian Federation previous year have triggered a stream of bad headlines. The first couple's foreign trip came with the administration recently being in turmoil after the sudden dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey.

Trump, who has expressed a desire for friendlier relations with Moscow, drew a storm of criticism this week when it emerged that he had shared sensitive national security information with Russia's foreign minister during a meeting last week in the White House.

That hasn't dampened expectations for Trump's arrival in the Arab Gulf, however.

Walking through the airport, Trump flashed a thumbs-up at a reporter - a gesture that was highlighted, in materials distributed to journalists by the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, as best avoided.

Billboards featuring images of Trump and the king and emblazoned with the motto "Together we prevail", dotted Riyadh's highways, and Trump's hotel was bathed in red, white and blue lights and, at times, an image of the president's face. He was joined by First Lady Melania Trump. He's slept only at the White House, Mar-a-Lago, and his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, since January.

He is also hoping to move past the controversies engulfing his administration.

He's also expected to announce a series of new agreements with the kingdom, including a $100 million arms deal that was brokered primarily by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. The package includes tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, radar and communications, and cybersecurity technology.

Trump's daughter, Ivanka, a senior White House adviser who is also accompanying her father, also left her head uncovered. Trump's staff has become beleaguered in the wake of the Russian Federation headlines, with Trump contemplating large-scale changes to his team.

The president and First Lady Melania Trump waved as they stood at the top of stairs that had been rolled to the side of the official presidential aircraft after it landed.

At an airport greeting ceremony over coffee, Melania Trump sat next to King Salman of Saudi Arabia, who in a show of respect traveled to greet the visiting American president at the airport - a courtesy he never extended to President Barack Obama.

There would normally be nothing out of the ordinary about American women dressing without headscarves in deeply conservative Saudi Arabia, where local women are required to cover themselves in public. Her husband had criticized former first lady Michelle Obama for not wearing a headscarf during a 2015 visit to the kingdom.

"Many people are saying it was wonderful that Mrs. Obama refused to wear a scarf in Saudi Arabia, but they were insulted".

Saudi Arabia is holding the event under the slogan Together We Prevail, in hopes of fighting extremist ideologies and co-operating with USA and Islamic allies to strengthen economic relations.

Trump will deliver a major speech Sunday to the leaders of more than two dozen Muslim nations where he'll urge countries to drive out extremists.

The second version, which dropped Iraq from the list, is also blocked in court, though Trump has said the measure is needed for the nation's security.

Latest News