'A new page' as Trump makes historic visit to Saudi Arabia


US President Donald Trump (C-L) is welcomed by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (C) upon arrival at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh on May 20, 2017, followed by First Lady Melania Trump (R).

President Donald Trump arrived in the Middle East on Saturday, touching down in Saudi Arabia to begin his first trip overseas, a visit aimed at forging stronger alliances to combat terrorism while seeking to push past the series of controversies threatening to engulf his young administration. Large billboards of Trump and King Salman lined the highway from the airport, CNN reported.

Trump, Salman and those accompanying them then moved to the Royal Hall, a terminal of the airport, for a tea ceremony.

Earlier, Trump waved as he stood atop stairs on Air Force One that had been rolled to the side of the official presidential aircraft as it landed. Saudi Arabian King Salman, 81, greeted Trump at the base of the stairs, extending his hand toward the US president.

Trump is to hold talks with King Salman and the kingdom's two powerful crown princes later on Saturday, before giving a speech on Islam to leaders of Muslim countries on Sunday.

For a president who campaigned on an "America First" platform, the trip is a crucial moment for USA allies to size up his commitment to decades-long partnerships while trying to move behind his previous controversial statements.

"He's going to be tougher on Iran", said Philip Gordon, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The White House said this is not a final draft and it could change leading up to Sunday's speech.

The nation offered Trump an elaborate welcome.

"I'll speak with Muslim leaders and challenge them to fight hatred and extremism, and embrace a peaceful future for their faith", Trump said ahead of his visit.

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Trump wants Gulf states in particular to do more to tackle extremists such as the Islamic State jihadist group.

Trump dodged one potential land mine when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has been indicted on war crime and genocide charges, announced that he would not attend the summit for personal reasons.

Before departing, the president tweeted he would be "strongly protecting American interests" on his marathon eight-day trip to the Middle East and Europe. The trip is a key test of the President's diplomatic skills and a chance to add substance to a foreign policy he has described broadly as "America First".

His visit to the Gulf is expected to bring lucrative arms contracts for U.S. firms.

Moments after Trump lifted off for Saudi Arabia, fresh reports stemming from the Russian Federation investigation surfaced and threatened to overshadow the trip.

In Israel, Trump will meet his "friend" Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Bethlehem.

Dogged by controversy at home, Donald Trump opened his first foreign trip as president in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, looking to shift attention from a political firestorm over his firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

As president, he then introduced two travel bans for several predominantly Muslim countries for "security reasons", though he and his administration insist that these were not "Muslim bans".

After wrapping up his two-day visit, Trump will travel to Israel, Palestine and the Vatican and then on to Brussels and Sicily where he is to take part in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and G7 summits.