WASHINGTON U.S. President Donald Trump will travel to Saudi Arabia and Israel this month as part of his first foreign trip, wading directly into the tangled diplomacy of Middle Eastern politics, a senior administration official said on Thursday.
The swing through the Middle East, added to a trip that includes a NATO meeting in Brussels on May 25 and the Group of Seven summit in Sicily on May 26, suggests Trump is seeking to reinforce alliances with top U.S. allies in the region.
Trump’s predecessor President Barack Obama had a testy relationship with Israel and Saudi Arabia. Leaders in both nations viewed Obama as less concerned with traditional alliances than with negotiating a deal to rein in Iran’s nuclear program.
Trump has made forging peace in the Middle East and fighting Islamic State a focus of his administration’s foreign policy.
Trump complained in an interview with Reuters last week that Saudi Arabia was not treating the United States fairly and Washington was losing a “tremendous amount of money” defending the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia’s powerful Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Trump in Washington in March in a visit hailed by a senior Saudi advisor as a “historical turning point” in U.S.-Saudi relations.
Trump, who met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in February, has assigned his son-in-law Jared Kushner to oversee efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
Trump met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on Wednesday but gave no details of how he would revive long-stalled peace talks.
Trump will also stop in Rome to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican as part of the trip, the official said. Senior sources told Reuters Trump was expected to meet the Pope on May 24.
Politico first reported the details of the trip.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton, Steve Holland and Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and James Dalgleish)