Trump, dogged by questions at home, makes first trip abroad to Middle East, Europe

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump departs Friday on his first foreign trip as Commander-in-Chief, accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump. The eight-day itinerary includes visits to religious sites as well as meetings with NATO and the G7.

The presidential road trip was partly crafted by President Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner.

It is an ambitious tour includes stops at holy sites of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

The timing could be a blessing.

"He can look presidential and it gets him away from a flood of problems at home," said Henry Brady, Dean of the U.C. Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy.

Brady says the question is how well President Trump, who often speaks off script, will fare in this first test of foreign diplomacy.

First stop is Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where the President will meet members of the Saudi royal family. The next day is a meeting with the Gulf Cooperation Council involving leaders from dozens of Muslim countries, who might have strong opinions on President Trump's rhetoric about "radical Islam", travel bans, and immigration.

President Trump is expected to participate in a signing ceremony of "several agreements that will further solidify U.S.-Saudi security and economic cooperation."
He is also scheduled to participate in the inauguration of a new center to fight radicalism, and take part in a Twitter forum with young people.

Second stop is Israel. President Trump is scheduled to meet President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. He also plans to visit the Holocaust memorial and stop at the Church of teh Holy Sepulcher and the Western Wall, which is claimed by both Palestinians and Israelis.

The Israel visit is a chance to get a symbolic fresh start, after the President's disclosure last week to Russian officals of classified intelligence provided by Israel.

Israel's Consul General to the Pacific Northwest Dr. Andy David is based in San Francisco. Dr. David says Iran and the Palestinian peace process are top concerns, and the visit to the Western Wall also will be significant.

"Symbols are important and it's a strong message sending to others who are watching," said Dr. David, "A visit by the American President who goes to the Western wall sends a symbol that it is a part of Israel, so for that matter it is important for him to visit."

Third stop is Bethlehem, where Mr. Trump will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

"He will urge Palestinian leaders to take steps that will help lead to peace," said Lt Gen H.R. McMaster, President Trump's National Security Adviser.

From there it's on to the Vatican and a meeting with Pope Francis who had been critical of the Trump campaign's positions on immigrants. The president also meets with Italy's President Sergio Mattarella.

The trip ends with meetings with presidents of the European Union in Belgium, including new French president Emmanuel Macron.

President Trump has a meeting with leaders of NATO, which the president has criticized. Secretary of Defense James Mattis will join Trump for NATO leaders meeting and dinner before traveling to Sicily, Italy for the G7 summit.

"In these kinds of situations, especially the local populations are going to be finely attuned to every word that hesays. How he refers to their country, how he refers to their leaders, how he refers to their religion. So anything that's poorly worded could get him in trouble," said Brady.
 

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