Trump to visit Saudi Arabia and Israel in first foreign trip

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump wave from the top of the steps of Air Force One in Florida

Trump hopes to use the meeting to obtain a "long term fix for radicalization" in the Muslim world, as well as to work to cut off funding for terror groups and to increase burden sharing in the fight against ISIS.

In Israel, Trump will meet with Israeli leaders President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Saudi Arabia's powerful deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, met with Trump at the White House in March.

"Our task is not to dictate to other how to live, but to build a coalition of friends and partners who share the goal of fighting terrorism", the president added. Mr Trump has since claimed Saudi Arabia is not treating the United States "fairly" in the fight against ISIS.

Trump is expected to travel with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, National Security Adviser Herbert McMaster, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and White House Senior Counselor for Economic Initiatives Dina Powell.

The stops will come before Trump attends a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting in Brussels on May 25 and a G7 meeting in Italy on May 26.

Trump's first foreign foray comes relatively late in the game, and he'll depart from a tradition every president since Ronald Reagan honored: Making Canada his first or second foreign stop.

"We thought [going to Saudi Arabia first] was very important because obviously people have tried to portray the president in a certain way", the official said. The last first-term president to wait until May to venture overseas was Jimmy Carter in 1977.

"Someone clearly saw the Vatican, Israel and Saudi Arabia as a broad stage where the President could demonstrate a certain degree of unity and ecumenism and go to places where he could be guaranteed a high degree of symbolism when it came to his first presidential trip", said Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Both the Vatican and the White House announced the meeting Thursday.

In Rome, the meeting with Francis on May 24 follows barbs traded between the pontiff and Trump during the presidential campaign.

"A person who thinks only about building walls. and not building bridges, is not Christian", said the pope in February 2016.

Mr Trump has been slow to leave the United States in his presidency.

But both share a populist appeal and speak with a down-to-earth simplicity that has endeared them to their bases of supporters.

More recently, Francis has urged the USA and North Korea to step away from the brink and use negotiations and diplomacy to defuse tensions on the Korean peninsula. Without naming Trump, Francis criticized restrictive immigration policies and said that plans to build a wall on the U.S. -Mexico border were "not Christian".

But Trump retorted in a statement on his campaign website: "No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man's religion or faith".

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