Abu Dhabi // The president of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa, has been invited by Saudi King Salman to attend talks in Riyadh later this month with the US president.
The ruler of Abu Dhabi was invited to both the US-GCC talks as well as the summit expected to be held a day later, on May 21, between Donald Trump and leaders from more than a dozen of the Muslim-majority countries who are a part of a Saudi-led military alliance, Wam, the UAE’s state news agency, reported late on Tuesday.
Mr Trump’s meetings in Riyadh will be the first stop on the first foreign trip made by the new US president, and afterwards he will fly to Israel for talks and then the Vatican.
The visit underlines the White House’s strategy of repairing ties with the leadership of Gulf countries and other traditional Arab allies to enlist greater cooperation in achieving its key objectives in the Middle East. These include defeating ISIL, containing Iran’s growing influence in the region and brokering another round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Gulf leaders have relished working with an administration from their most important international security partner that more closely shares their views on the threat posed by Tehran.
In large measure, the US president’s meetings with Gulf and Muslim officials this month is about improving the image of a new administration whose election campaign was filled with Islamophobic rhetoric and that began its tenure by announcing a ban on Muslim refugees and visas for citizens from a handful of Muslim-majority countries.
The trip to the country that is caretaker of the heart of the Islamic faith, Mecca and Medina, is an attempt to change perceptions and show that the US will work closely with crucial partners against ISIL and on counter-terrorism more broadly.
Mr Trump’s visit “is a clear message to the world that the United States and the Arab and Islamic countries can form a partnership,” Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir said, as quoted by the Saudi Press Agency.
“We believe that it will strengthen cooperation between the United States and Arab and Islamic countries in the fight against terrorism and extremism, and the visit will have enormous benefits for the region and the world.”
Along with GCC rulers, the heads of state of Pakistan, Jordan, Algeria, Yemen, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia and Iraq have also been invited to the larger summit, Spa reported, which will follow bilateral and the GCC-US talks.
On Monday, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is scheduled to travel to Washington for meetings with the US president at the White House and with other administration officials and member of congress.
The UAE is the Gulf country closest to the US military, with which it conducts counter-terrorism operations against Al Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate and the Al Shabab extremist group in Somalia. It also works with US officials on countering extremism strategies at the joint Sawab Center based in Abu Dhabi.