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Reports said the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has allocated $ 68 million for preparations to host Trump.

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US President Donald Trump, who is known for his controversial statements on a plethora  of issues including Saudi Arabia’s role in spreading radical Islam, will be shortly seen in a new avatar when he visits Riyadh on May 20 and 21. It would the first stop of his maiden foreign trip where he will meet most Arab monarchs and other heads of Muslim states.

According to Washington Post, President Trump will visit Saudi Arabia, Israel and Vatican (Italy) and attend the NATO summit in Belgium.

A senior Trump administration official, while describing the visit, was quoted saying that the US President chose Saudi Arabia as his first stop to show his commitment to improving US relations with the Muslim world.  He will meet King Salman and other leaders where they are expected to discuss efforts to defeat terrorism and discredit radical ideologies.

At the White House Rose Garden on May 4, President Trump said his foreign trip would “begin with a truly historic gathering in Saudi Arabia with leaders all across the Muslim world”.  He was generous enough saying, “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 and to embrace a more just and hopeful future for young Muslims in their countries.”

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir told reporters in Washington that Trump’s visit would send a clear message that the US harbours no ill-will towards Muslim countries, which he said was a “misconception” spread by Iran and extremists like the Islamic State (IS). He said, “This historic summit is going to change the narrative in the Islamic world and the world.’

Trump’s change of heart towards Saudi Arabia was revealed for the first time after becoming President, when he rolled out the red carpet for Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and his accompanying high-level delegation on March 14 this year.

The Saudi government had hailed it as a “historic turning point” in US-Saudi relations after eight contentious years with the Obama administration. The royal statement said that the prince considers Trump “a true friend of Muslims” and that the meeting marked a “significant shift in relations” across all fields.

Meanwhile, a White House statement said Trump and Salman had directed their teams to find ways “to further strengthen and elevate the United States-Saudi strategic relationship”.

During his campaign, Trump said, “They (Saudi Arabia) are loaded with money to the gills. The US protects them. We get practically nothing. Do you know why? Because our leaders don’t have business instinct!”

He further said, “Here’s what’s going to happen. We’ll say to Saudi Arabia, ‘Fellas, you’ve got to help us out.’ They’ll say, ‘No.’ We’ll say, ‘Bye, bye.’ About two days later, they’ll call and say ‘Get back here fast, somebody’s going to make a raid.’ We’ll go back. They’ll pay us so much money. And you know what? That’s fine.”

King Salman is said to have invited the heads of the Gulf Cooperation Council members:  Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Oman along with several other Muslim states.

The other invitees to the Arab-American Summit include King Abdullah II of Jordan, Iraqi President Fuad Masum, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Niger’s Mahamadou Issoufou, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Yemen’s virtually ousted President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from Pakistan.

The leaders of Egypt, Syria and Iran are missing from the list. In January, immediately after his inauguration, President Trump imposed ban on travellers from seven countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

According to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir, separate meetings will also take place between monarchs of GCC countries and Trump, as well as bilateral talks between Saudi and US leaders.

Reports said the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has allocated nearly $ 68 million to the preparations for hosting Trump.

During the US presidential campaign, New York Daily News had reported that Trump made millions of dollars from his deals with Saudi Arabia, which included leasing an apartment to former Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s half brother Shafiq. The Saudis paid $ 4.5 million in June 2001 and bought the 45th floor of the real estate mogul’s Trump World Tower in Manhattan. Shafiq met then US President George Bush on September 11, 2001, which was cut short due to the 9/11 attack.

Meanwhile, Gulf News, the largest circulated English daily in the GCC countries, observed that the Arab world has a historic opportunity to use the new American President Donald Trump’s first trip to make some cogent points on many important issues that challenge the region. It is an extraordinary compliment that Saudi Arabia will host Trump’s first state visit, wisely timed to the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit, the editorial, published on May 10, said.

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