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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Saturday, January 20, 2018

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With a heavy baggage of anti-Muslim rhetoric, Trump tells Arab allies in desert Kingdom to ‘honestly confront Islamist extremism’

Main agenda was to reset ties with the Muslim world

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Hoping to secure a victory overseas, after being burdened by the constant controversies gripping his administration back home, U.S. President Donald Trump headed to Saudi Arabia on Friday.> BNN

While his main agenda was to reset ties with the Muslim world, America’s old allies and strike some business deals - one of the most awaited part of his trip was the speech he intended to make on Islam. 

On Sunday, Trump addressed over 50 leaders of Muslim majority nations, in a bid to reverse the damage he might have caused by his prolonged anti-Muslim rhetoric. 

Speaking in an ornate ballroom, with members of the Saudi Royal family sitting nearby, President Donald Trump delivered a moderate speech on Islam.

He invoked the power of unity, in hoping to present a united and determined front in the battle against ‘Islamist extremism.’

Trump told his audience, consisting of presidents, kings, prime ministers and emirs, “We are all in this together.”

He urged Arab allies to "honestly confront the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires."

Adding, “We are all in this together. This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between good and evil."

He continued, “We are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership - based on shared interests and values."

Trump noted, "Our friends will never question our support.”

Reports pointed out the similarity between the message Trump shared on Sunday and the one Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov delivered in a similar setting five years ago.

Addressing Arab League leaders in Cairo, Lavrov declared, "Russia will always back its allies."

Trump’s message was seen to contradict the U.S. action under his predecessor Barack Obama, who did not stop President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt from being toppled during the Arab Spring in December 2011.

Then, Lavrov was similarly trying to win over the U.S.’s Arab allies.

Trump added on Sunday that "Terrorism has spread across the world. The path to peace begins right here, on this ancient soil, in this sacred land."

In a 33-minute speech, Trump said, “The Middle East should not be a place where refugees flee, but to which newcomers flock.” 

Trump said, “We in this room are the leaders of our people. They look to us for answers. When we look back at their faces behind every pair of eyes is a soul that yearns for justice and for peace.”

Trump declared, “America is prepared to stand with you - in pursuit of shared interests and common security.”

He even castigated the Iranian regime for speaking “openly of mass murder, the destruction of Israel.”

Trump said, “Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations must work together to isolate, deny it” funding for terrorism.

His Saudi hosts meanwhile, seeming convinced, have touted his visit as historic.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir called Trump’s visit "an historic event that opens a new page between the West and the Islamic Arab world."

Trump became the only U.S. president in history to make Saudi Arabia his first foreign visit. 

Saudi Arabia, in a bid to rekindle its relationship with the United States, didn’t hold back either.

Trump is accompanied by his wife and First Lady Melania, his daughter Ivanka Trump and an entourage including virtually his entire senior White House staff and much of his Cabinet.  

Amongst the main part of entourage were U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, chief strategist Steve Bannon, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, deputy national security adviser Dina Powell, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, National Economic Council director Gary Cohn and press secretary Sean Spicer.

As part of his trip, Trump is scheduled to participate in the inauguration of a new Saudi center to fight radicalism and promote moderation, and will also take part in a Twitter forum with young people.

Following the two-day trip to Riyadh, Trump will travel to Jerusalem for meetings with Israeli officials.

He will also visit Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, and will then head to Rome, where he will have a private audience with Pope Francis. 

Trump will then head to Brussels for a meeting with NATO leaders, including a bilateral session with newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron, and will finally visit Sicily, Italy, where he will attend a G7 summit of the United States’ closest economic allies.

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