US President Donald Trump, who has not been afraid to voice opinions hostile to Islam, traveled to the religion’s cradle in his first presidential foreign trip on Saturday.
He won a warm reception from Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz in the Saudi capital Riyadh, as he looked to shift attention from a political firestorm over his sacking of FBI director James Comey.
Trump's Saudi royal hosts lavished him with an extravagant welcome not shown to his predecessor, Barack Obama, whom they felt was soft on their rival, Iran.
Trump is accompanied on the visit by his wife Melania, his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner.
His eight-day trip will also take him in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Italy, the Vatican and Belgium.
110 billion US dollar arms deals
After a royal banquet and private talks, Trump and the king participated in a signing ceremony for a number of US-Saudi agreements.
On Friday, Vice Admiral Joe Rixey, head of the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, said that the US and the Saudi Ministry of Defense had “designed and negotiated a package totaling approximately 110 billion dollars", and when completed it will be the largest single arms deal in American history.
The package includes a six billion dollar deal for Saudi Arabia to buy four Littoral Combat Ships made by Lockheed Martin Corp.
Saudi Arabia has been fighting Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen since March 2015. The United Nations says about 10,000 people have been killed since the fighting began, with Yemen on the verge of famine.
Saudi oil giant Aramco was expected to sign deals worth 50 billion dollars with 11 US companies, Aramco's chief executive Amin Nasser said on Saturday morning. The deal is part of a wider drive to diversify the Saudi economy beyond oil exports.
US President Donald Trump (L) and Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud take part in a signing ceremony at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh on May 20, 2017. /VCG Photo
Trump to address the Muslim world
On Sunday, Trump is scheduled to deliver a speech in Riyadh to more than 40 leaders of Muslim nations in which he will call for a united stand against extremism and intolerance.
He will also attend a summit of Gulf leaders of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council in the Saudi capital and speak about his "hopes of a peaceful vision of Islam." Aides say the president hopes his speech will resonate worldwide and express "a common vision of peace, progress and prosperity."
A senior Saudi official said a digital center to monitor the activities of ISIL and other militant groups online would be opened on Sunday, to coincide with the visit.
Ahead of Trump's trip, the White House said the president expected tangible results from Saudi Arabia in countering Islamic extremism.
Shortly after taking office, Trump sought to block people from several Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States, but the travel ban was blocked by federal courts.