Posts Tagged ‘Oman’

Qatar Says Won’t Negotiate Until Economic Boycott Ends

June 19, 2017

DOHA — Qatar will not negotiate with Arab states that have cut economic and travel ties with it unless they reverse their measures, its foreign minister said, ruling out discussions over Qatar’s internal affairs including Al Jazeera TV.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said Qatar had still not received any demands from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which severed relations two weeks ago, triggering the worst Gulf Arab crisis in years.

Image result for Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, photos

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahmanal-Thani

The countries accuse Qatar of supporting Islamist militants and stirring up unrest, charges Doha denies.

“Qatar is under blockade, there is no negotiation. They have to lift the blockade to start negotiations,” Sheikh Mohammed told reporters in Doha. “Until now we didn’t see any progress about lifting the blockade, which is the precondition for anything to move forward.”

He said Kuwait’s ruler was the sole mediator in the crisis and that he was waiting for specific demands from Gulf states in order to take resolution efforts forward.

“We cannot just have (vague) demands such as ‘the Qataris know what we want from them, they have to stop this or that, they have to be monitored by a foreign monitoring mechanism,'” Sheikh Mohammed said.

Anything that relates to the affairs of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council is subject to negotiation, he said, referring to the body comprising Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.

“Anything not related to them is not subject to negotiation. No one has the right to interfere in my affairs. Al Jazeera is Qatar’s affairs, Qatari foreign policy on regional issues is Qatar’s affairs. And we are not going to negotiate on our own affairs,” he said.

Qatar’s Gulf critics have accused Al Jazeera of being a platform for extremists and an agent of interference in their affairs. The network has rejected those accusations and said it will maintain its editorial independence.

Image result for LNG, Qatar, photos

The crisis has hit civilian travel, some food imports, ratcheted up tensions in the Gulf and sown confusion among businesses. But it has not affected energy exports from Qatar, the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Sheikh Mohammed said Qatar would rely on other states if the boycott continued, including Saudi Arabia’s arch regional foe Iran.

“We have a back-up plan which depends mainly on Turkey, Kuwait and Oman,” he said. “Iran has facilitated for us the sky passages for our aviation and we are cooperating with all countries that can ensure supplies for Qatar.”

(Reporting by Tom Finn; writing by Sylvia Westall; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Iran, China Hold Joint Naval Drill in Persian Gulf

June 18, 2017

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s navy has conducted a joint exercise with a Chinese fleet near the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf.

The official IRNA news agency said Sunday’s drill included an Iranian warship as well as two Chinese warships, a logistics ship and a Chinese helicopter that arrived in Iran’s port of Bandar Abbas last week.

It said the scheduled exercise came before the departure of the Chinese fleet for Muscat, Oman. It did not provide further details.

The U.S. Navy held a joint drill with Qatar in the Persian Gulf on Saturday.

U.S. and Iranian warships have had a number of tense encounters in the Persian Gulf in recent years. Nearly a third of all oil traded by sea passes through the Strait of Hormuz.

Qatar Begins Shipping Cargo Through Oman to Bypass Gulf Rift

June 12, 2017

DOHA, Qatar — Qatar says it has begun shipping cargo through to Oman to bypass Gulf countries that have cut off sea routes to the tiny, energy rich nation.

Qatar’s port authority published video Monday showing a ship arriving at Doha’s Hamad Port from Oman’s port of Sohar.

Typically, cargo for Qatar stops at Dubai’s massive deep-water Jebel Ali port, then gets put on smaller boats heading to Doha. But since June 5, the UAE has joined Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt in cutting off sea traffic to Qatar as part of the nations cutting diplomatic ties.

Qatar’s port authority says its cargo will go through Sohar, as well as Oman’s port at Salalah.

Meanwhile, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency has said two Iranian navy vessels will stop off in Oman soon.

Related:

Iran urges ‘dialogue’ to resolve Gulf row over Qatar

June 5, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a joint press conference after talks with his Russian and Syrian counterparts in Moscow on April 14, 2017

TEHRAN (AFP) – 

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday urged Qatar and neighbouring Gulf Arab countries that have severed diplomatic ties with it to engage in dialogue to resolve their dispute.

“Neighbours are permanent; geography can’t be changed. Coercion is never the solution. Dialogue is imperative, especially during blessed Ramadan,” Zarif tweeted, referring to the Muslim month of fasting.

He also phoned his counterparts in Turkey, Indonesia, Iraq and Oman to discuss the “latest regional developments”.

Earlier, foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi also said in a statement that a solution to the differences between Qatar and its three Gulf neighbours “is only possible through political and peaceful methods and dialogue between the parties”.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, plus Egypt and Yemen, on Monday announced they were cutting all ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting extremism, in the biggest diplomatic crisis in the region for years.

Ghasemi said increased tension among its southern neighbours “is not to the benefit of any governments in the region and threatens the interests of all” at a time when the world was “suffering widespread terrorism and extremism”.

Shiite Iran has had no diplomatic ties with most of the mainly Sunni Gulf states since 2016, when Arab nations followed Saudi Arabia in severing relations after protesters torched its missions in the Islamic republic.

“Using sanctions in today’s integrated world is inefficient, to be condemned and unacceptable,” Ghasemi added of Qatar’s neighbours closing all land, sea and air links with it.

“Protecting the national sovereignty of independent governments, avoiding interference in their internal affairs and respecting recognised international borders are internationally recognised and fundamental rights which must be respected by all sides.”

Trump Urges Muslims to Fight Extremism in Saudi Speech — Plus Photos of Events in Riyadh

May 21, 2017

As he continues his first overseas trip as president, Trump aims to strike a conciliatory tone toward Muslims

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and suit

President Trump speaks at the Arab-Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

.

Updated May 21, 2017 11:24 a.m. ET

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia—President Donald Trump called Sunday on Muslim leaders across the globe to confront “the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds,” in a conciliatory speech aimed at corralling Arab allies around a new, combined effort to combat terrorism.

His speech at an Arab-Islamic-American summit in the Saudi capital marked a dramatic departure from rhetoric during his presidential campaign, most notably was his deliberate decision not to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” as he pointedly did as a candidate.

Instead, Mr. Trump sought to draw a distinction between religion and terrorism carried out in its name. It “is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations” but “a battle between good and evil,” he said.

“Terrorists do not worship God. They worship death,” Mr. Trump said.

“Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear,” he added, if you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief and your soul will be fully condemned.”

Mr. Trump sought to underpin his pursuit of a renewed campaign against terrorism with new measures aimed at combating groups such as al Qaeda and Islamic State, and countering Iranian aggression in the Middle East.

Arab leaders agreed take steps to target terrorism financing, and the U.S. and Saudi Arabia opened a center in Riyadh focused on that effort. The U.S. also agreed to some $400 billion in economic investments with Saudi Arabia including $110 billion in new arms sales to Riyadh.

As president, Mr. Trump issued two travel bans targeting Muslim-majority countries he deemed terrorism threats, fulfilling one of his signature campaign promises. Both executive orders were halted after being challenged and tied up in U.S. courts.

In a February speech to both chambers of Congress, Mr. Trump said his administration was “taking strong measures to protect our nation from radical Islamic terrorism,” stressing the last three words.

Roger Stone, a Republican operative who was closely involved with Mr. Trump’s campaign, responded to a photograph of King Salman placing a medal around the president’s neck by writing on Twitter: “Candidly, this makes me want to puke.”

Mr. Trump has repeatedly criticized his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, for refusing to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.” He also said his Democratic opponent in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, was “afraid” to say it, though she had said she would.

While many Saudis have been delighted by Mr. Trump’s visit, and he received a warm welcome from the royal family, the reaction from Arabs across the region has been more critical.

From Islamists to pro-democracy advocates, many have responded harshly to a U.S. president who has spoken of a ban on Muslims. Others simply saw Mr. Trump’s elaborate reception from the Saudi monarchy as another sign that the administration wouldn’t push the region’s autocrats toward democratic reform any time soon.

U.S. officials didn’t publicly raise human-rights abuses by Saudi Arabia that the American government has criticized in the past.

For the White House, Mr. Trump’s speech on Islam was a chance for the new president to persuade a wider audience that his views aren’t hostile to the religion, as he tries to kick-start closer cooperation with Muslim leaders to combat terrorism.

Sunday’s summit could also help Saudi Arabia convey a message to the wider world about its commitment to fighting religious extremism. The country, which practices an austere interpretation of Sunni Islam, has struggled to shed its reputation as a hub of radical Islam since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on America. The perpetrators were mostly Saudi citizens.

Since then, Riyadh has emerged as one of Washington’s closest counterterrorism allies, and under King Salman has sought to lead regional efforts against terrorism.

The Saudi monarchy—eager to cultivate better ties with the U.S. under Mr. Trump than it had under Mr. Obama—has largely overlooked some of new president’s past positions. Saudi Arabia sees the U.S. as a vital partner in efforts to counter the influence of rival Iran in the region, and has enthusiastically welcomed the new administration’s more hard-line stance toward Tehran.

The World Bank announced at an event with the president’s daughter and senior White House adviser, Ivanka Trump, that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pledged a combined $100 million to a fund that will assist women entrepreneurs and small-business owners.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Egypt's President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi take part in a bilateral meeting in Riyadh on Sunday.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi take part in a bilateral meeting in Riyadh on Sunday. PHOTO:MANDEL NGAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
.

Mr. Trump held individual meetings Sunday with leaders from Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt and Kuwait. The summit included representatives from the six Persian Gulf countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Noticeably absent from Sunday’s summit is the Sunni kingdom’s regional adversary: Shiite Iran, with whom Riyadh severed diplomatic relations in early 2016. Tensions between the two countries, which back opposite sides of conflicts in Yemen and Syria, have played out across the Middle East, heightening tensions between Sunnis and Shiites.

Mr. Trump is seeking warmer U.S. relations in the Middle East, in part to push for a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians and a broader thaw between Israel and its Arab neighbors. It also wants America’s Persian Gulf allies to take more of a leading role to counter Iran’s influence and help stabilize the volatile region.

Mr. Trump noted the tense relations as he met with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, saying “there won’t be strain with this administration.”

He told the king the two countries have “many of the same things in common.” The king replied that they have a “very good foundation of mutual understanding and strategy” that has “led to a great stability in the region.”

Write to Carol E. Lee at carol.lee@wsj.com and Margherita Stancati at margherita.stancati@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trumps-saudi-speech-to-mark-bid-to-ease-muslim-tensions-1495359283

Related:

*************************************

President Trump speaks at the Arab-Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
President Trump speaks at the Arab-Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS
President Trump attended a meeting with Gulf Cooperation Council leaders in Riyadh on Sunday.
President Trump attended a meeting with Gulf Cooperation Council leaders in Riyadh on Sunday. JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS
.
Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud waits to receive Mr. Trump for the Arab-Islamic-American Summit.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud waits to receive Mr. Trump for the Arab-Islamic-American Summit.JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS
Mr. Trump, flanked by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Senior Adviser Jared Kushner and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, meets with Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
Mr. Trump, flanked by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Senior Adviser Jared Kushner and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, meets with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS
Mr. Trump pauses during a meeting with leaders at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit.
Mr. Trump pauses during a meeting with leaders at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit. EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS
First lady Melania Trump plays with children during a visit to the American International School in the Saudi capital.
First lady Melania Trump plays with children during a visit to the American International School in the Saudi capital.GIUSEPPE CACACE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
A worker in Riyadh walks past a balloon with a U.S. flag on it as part of welcome celebrations ahead of the visit of Mr. Trump.
A worker in Riyadh walks past a balloon with a U.S. flag on it as part of welcome celebrations ahead of the visit of Mr. Trump. HAMAD I MOHAMMED/REUTERS
Mr. Trump and King Salman arriving for a reception ahead of a banquet at Murabba Palace in Riyadh.
Mr. Trump and King Salman arriving for a reception ahead of a banquet at Murabba Palace in Riyadh. BANDAR AL-JALOUD/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
Mr. Trump is welcomed by Saudi King Salman on Saturday.
Mr. Trump is welcomed by Saudi King Salman on Saturday. BANDAR AL-JALOUD/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
King Salman gives Mr. Trump the kingdom’s highest honor, the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal.
King Salman gives Mr. Trump the kingdom’s highest honor, the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal. SAUDI PRESS AGENCY/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
White House senior adviser Jared Kushnerr and his wife, Ivanka Trump, arrive at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushnerr and his wife, Ivanka Trump, arrive at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh. MANDEL NGAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGE
Mr. Trump greets diplomats at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh.
Mr. Trump greets diplomats at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh. SAUDI ROYAL PALACE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGE
Mr. Trump and King Salman stop for coffee.
Mr. Trump and King Salman stop for coffee. MANDEL NGAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
From left, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, President Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross take part in a bilateral meeting with King Salman in Riyadh.
From left, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, President Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross take part in a bilateral meeting with King Salman in Riyadh. MANDEL NGAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
In the front row, from left, Abu Dhabi‘s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, U.S. President Donald Trump, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Jordan’s King Abdullah II at a summit in Riyadh on Sunday.
In the front row, from left, Abu Dhabi‘s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, U.S. President Donald Trump, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Jordan’s King Abdullah II at a summit in Riyadh on Sunday. JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS
.

Trump calls for stamping out financing of terrorist groups to Muslim leaders — “Drive them out.”

May 21, 2017

President Trump Sunday in a highly-anticipated speech to Muslim leaders during his first foreign trip called for unity between the U.S. and Middle Eastern nations in the fight to “stamp out extremism.”

During his second day of his first trip abroad, Trump’s speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia addressed the leaders of 50 Muslim-majority countries to challenge extremism by cutting off the financing of terrorist groups.

Trump announced the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, which is committed to prosecuting the financing of terrorism.

“Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honor to God,” Trump said.

The council comprises Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will sign the memorandum of understanding in Riyadh, according to Reuters.

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

“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations,” the president added.

In his first overseas trip as president, Trump also pledged to work with Saudi Arabia leader King Salman to bring peace to the Gulf region and forge stronger economic ties, in large part through a roughly $10 billion arms deal.

“That was a tremendous day,” Trump said shortly after signing the arms deal. “Tremendous investments in the United States. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.”

The arms deal is part of large, $350 billion economic packages between the ally nations.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/05/21/trump-calls-for-stamping-out-financing-terrorist-groups-to-muslim-leaders.html

*************************************

Trump Tells Muslim Leaders: ‘Drive out’ the Terrorists

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — President Donald Trump offered a message of unity Sunday as he called on the Arab world to confront extremism during a highly anticipated speech in the birthplace of Islam.

“Drive them out!” Trump said of terrorists to dozens of Arab leaders who attended his remarks. “Of your places of worship, drive them out of your communities, drive them out of your Holy Land, and drive them out of this Earth!”

“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations,” Trump said. “This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it.”

He added, “If we do not stand in uniform condemnation of this killing, then we not only will be judged by our people, not only will be judged by history, but we will be judged by God.”

The speech during the initial stop of the president’s first foreign trip is set to be a stark contrast to his previous comments on Islam. As a candidate, Trump frequently criticized the religion, saying, “I think Islam hates us” and “there’s a tremendous hatred there.”

The U.S.’s Middle Eastern allies have often complained about America’s focus on human rights, a stance Trump also seemed keen to make a break from.

“America is a sovereign nation and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens,” the president said. “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 — to pursue a better future for us all.”

Introducing Trump, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman spoke of the responsibility and need “to stand united to fight the forces of evil and extremism.”

“There is no honor in committing murder,” Salman said, adding that Islam is “the religion of peace and tolerance.”

Trump defined the struggle against extremism as “a battle between good and evil.”

“Barbarism will deliver you no glory — piety to evil will bring you no dignity,” the president said. “If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and your soul will be condemned.”

Trump also offered a firm rebuke of Iran, a stark departure from the overtures of the Obama administration that had caused such a chill with the Saudi government.

Calling them out for funding arms, training terrorists, and “spreading destruction and chaos across the region,” Trump implored all nations to “work together to isolate” Tehran until the regime is “willing to be a partner for peace.”

“Pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they so richly deserve,” he said.

In the speech at the King Abdul Aziz Conference Center, Trump did not use the phrase “radical Islamic terror” — one he uttered repeatedly on the campaign trail, and lambasted his predecessor for saying. The president did say: “That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds.”

The president also said countries in the region must do the hard work themselves and not to expect the U.S. to fight terror for them.

“The nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children,” Trump said. “Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combating radicalization.”

Trump said he hoped the gathering of region leaders in Riyadh who attended his speech would mark the beginning of the end of terrorism and the start of peace in the Middle East.

“This region should not be a place that refugees flee, but to which newcomers flock,” the president said.

Trump came to office promising to disengage the U.S. from conflicts that have claimed thousands of U.S. lives, particularly in the greater Middle East, where it has been embroiled in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq among others.

Trump echoed his “America First” mantra from the campaign, which according to the White House does not mean isolation and instead is about U.S. citizens’ “safety and security.”

His presidential campaign was rife with anti-Muslim comments and promises, including support of surveillance of mosques, as well as an early proposal for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

As president, Trump made good on a version of that promise by signing a travel ban that has been stalled in the courts which would have barred citizens from a handful of Muslim-majority countries, although not Saudi Arabia.

On Saturday, Trump received a royal greeting after touching down in the country. The pomp and pageantry included a signing ceremony for a military arms deal to Saudi Arabia, worth $110 billion effective immediately and up to $350 billion over 10 years, and ended with a boisterous banquet filled with music and dancing.

“That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States,” Trump told reporters Saturday. “Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Earlier Sunday before his speech, Trump held meetings with other regional leaders during which he touted “lots of beautiful military equipment” that U.S. workers manufacture

Includes video:

http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/trumps-first-foreign-trip/trump-speech-muslims-we-are-not-here-lecture-n762631

“Battle between good and evil” — Donald Trump at Arab Islamic American Summit to Urge More United Fight Against Terrorism

May 21, 2017

AFP and The Associated Press

© Bandar al-Jaloud, Saudi Royal Palace, AFP | US President Donald Trump (centre), First Lady Melania Trump (left), and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud in Riyadh, on May 20, 2017

Latest update : 2017-05-21

Even as his administration fights for its travel ban from several Muslim-majority countries, President Donald Trump is using the nation that is home to Islam’s holiest site as a backdrop to call for Muslim unity in the fight against terrorism.

Trump’s Sunday speech, the centerpiece of his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, will address the leaders of 50 Muslim-majority countries to cast the challenge of extremism as a “battle between good and evil” and urge Arab leaders to “drive out the terrorists from your places of worship,” according to a draft of the speech obtained by The Associated Press.

Trump, whose campaign was frequently punctuated by bouts of anti-Islamic rhetoric, is poised to soften some of his language about Islam. Though during the campaign he repeatedly stressed the need to say the words “radical Islamic terrorism” – and criticized his opponent, Hillary Clinton, for not doing so – that phrase is not included in the draft.

The speech comes amid a renewed courtship of the United States’ Arab allies as Trump is set to have individual meetings with leaders of several nations, including Egypt and Qatar, before then participating in a roundtable with the Gulf Cooperation Council and joining Saudi King Salman in opening Riyadh’s new anti-terrorism center.
The address also notably refrains from mentioning democracy and human rights – topics Arab leaders often view as U.S. moralizing – in favor of the more limited goals of peace and stability.

“We are not here to lecture – to tell other peoples how to live, what to do or who to be. We are here instead to offer partnership in building a better future for us all,” according to the copy of his speech.

Two different sources provided the AP with copies of the draft of his remarks, billed as a marquee speech of the trip. The White House confirmed the draft was authentic, but cautioned the president had not yet signed off on the final product and that changes could be made.

Trump may seem an unlikely messenger to deliver an olive branch to the Muslim world.
During his campaign, he mused, “I think Islam hates us.” And only a week after taking office, he signed an executive order to ban immigrants from seven countries – Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen – from entering the United States, a decision that sparked widespread protests at the nation’s airports and demonstrations outside the White House.

That ban was blocked by the courts. A second order, which dropped Iraq from the list, is tied up in federal court and the federal government is appealing.

White House officials have said they consider Trump’s visit, and his keynote address, a counterweight to President Barack Obama’s debut speech to the Muslim world in 2009 in Cairo.

Obama called for understanding and acknowledged some of America’s missteps in the region. That speech was denounced by many Republicans and criticized by a number of the United States’ Middle East allies as being a sort of apology.

Saudi Arabia’s leaders soured on Obama, and King Salman did not greet him at the airport during his final visit to the kingdom. But on Saturday, the 81-year-old king, aided by a cane, walked along the red carpet to meet Trump as a fleet of military jets swept through the sky, leaving a red, white and blue trail in their wake. During a ceremony at the grand Saudi Royal Court, the king awarded Trump the Collar of Abdulaziz al Saud, the theocracy’s highest civilian honor.

Trump bent down so the king could place the gold medal around his neck. Saudi Arabia has previously bestowed the honor on Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Obama.

The president’s stop in Saudi Arabia’s dusty desert capital kicked off his first foreign trip as president, an ambitious, five-stop swing that will take him through the Middle East and into Europe. He’s the only American president to make Saudi Arabia – or any Muslim-majority nation – his first overseas visit.

Trump arrived in Riyadh besieged by the fallout from his controversial decision to fire FBI Director James Comey and more revelations about the federal investigations into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia. But escaping Washington for the gold-plated embrace of the Saudi royal family – a decor not so unlike Trump’s own Manhattan home – appeared to give the president a boost.

The president was largely kept out of earshot from reporters, rendering them unable to ask about the tumult back home. But he did make a brief utterance to the press pool, deeming the proceedings “a tremendous day.”

Trump is scheduled to leave Saudi Arabia, home to Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, early Monday to head to Israel.

Related:

Trump to Seek Reset With Islamic World as Arab Islamic American Summit Kicks Off

May 21, 2017

RIYADH — U.S. President Donald Trump, struggling to shake a brewing scandal at home, will attempt a reset on Sunday with the Islamic world after frequently attacking Muslims on the campaign trail last year and trying to ban many from the United States.

Trump’s afternoon speech at an Arab Islamic American Summit (4:20 p.m. local/9:20 a.m. EDT) will include appeals for Muslims to unite against the threat of Islamic militants.

A senior administration official said Trump’s basic theme in the speech will be to call for unity and say Muslims need to confront radicalism.

Whether he would use his signature campaign phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” to describe the threat was unclear. His speech was still being worked on late on Saturday, and some advisers were cautioning him against using the term.

Saudi Arabia is the first stop on Trump’s initial foreign trip, a nine-day journey through the Middle East and Europe.

Trump drew the ire of Muslims during his presidential campaign by calling for a ban on them entering the United States. His attempt early in his presidency to ban people from seven Muslim-majority nations has been blocked by the courts.

The speech comes as Trump tries to escape the fallout from his May 9 firing of former FBI Director James Comey amid accusations he was trying to stop a federal investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia last year.

The New York Times reported Trump called Comey a “nut job” in a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week. The Washington Post said the probe had reached into the White House to include a Trump adviser, who was not named.

Trump showed little sign of the pressure during a day of diplomacy on Saturday during which he was warmly welcomed by Saudi King Salman.

At a royal banquet on Saturday night, Trump walked into a colorful spectacle: Men in ceremonial dress and carrying swords chanted in unison to beating drums in a courtyard. Trump, clearly enjoying himself, smiled and swayed, even seeming to dance a little at the center of the group.

A strong breeze later blew sand through the area.

Trump on Sunday is to meet leaders of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council as part of his effort to counter Iran with a NATO-like Arab force.

Trump and the leaders will also establish a center aimed at cracking down on the ability of Islamic militants to spread their message.

He will meet individually with the leaders of Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Kuwait and Oman.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

**************************************

Saudis Welcome Trump’s Rebuff of Obama’s Mideast Views

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — With trumpets blaring, cannons booming and fighter jets streaking overhead trailed by red, white and blue contrails, President Trump arrived in the scorching heat of the Arabian desert on Saturday hoping to realign the politics and diplomacy of the Middle East by forcefully reasserting American support for Sunni Muslim countries and Israel against Iran’s Shiite-led government.

The start of Mr. Trump’s first trip abroad since becoming president — coming amid the scandals and chaos engulfing his administration — was intended to be a blunt rejection of President Barack Obama’s vision for the region. Mr. Obama sought a reconciliation with Iran and negotiated a deal intended to keep Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

The day proved to be almost everything a besieged White House could have wanted. After weeks of stormy politics and out-of-control news cycles, the president stayed rigorously on script and restrained himself on Twitter. His staff boasted about the business deals being signed, and the visual images beamed to Americans back home showed a president seemingly in command of a world stage.

The Saudis treated him like royalty, with red carpets, lavish meals and American flags flying everywhere. They repeatedly used the word “historic” to describe his visit, gave him a medal, projected a multistory image of his face on the side of the palatial Ritz-Carlton hotel where he was staying, and treated him to a colorful dance display in which his staff joined in with scores of white-robed Saudis and even the president swayed back and forth.

As Mr. Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia, Iranians re-elected President Hassan Rouhani, who sealed the nuclear deal. Officials of both countries used the president’s visit to press Iran to halt support for terrorism and to stop interfering in the affairs of its neighbors.

At the Royal Court Palace, President Trump was presented with Saudi Arabia’s highest honor.Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

“We are closely coordinating our efforts in terms of how to counter Iran’s extremism and its export of extremism,” Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said at a joint news conference in Riyadh with Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister.

Mr. Jubeir praised Mr. Trump for renewing ties between the two countries, and pointed to the “extremely, extremely productive and historic visit.”

For Mr. Trump, the warm embrace by the Saudi monarchy was a welcome break from the cascade of bad news in Washington. Even as Air Force One took off from a Maryland air base on Friday afternoon, headlines revealed new details about the swiftly expanding investigation into ties between Russia and Mr. Trump’s advisers.

Questions about those headlines followed Mr. Trump across the globe, a reminder of the political troubles dogging him back home. But the president at least initially resisted the temptation to deviate from his diplomatic script to address reports that he had referred to James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, as “a nut job” during meetings with Russian officials in the Oval Office.

Source:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/20/world/middleeast/donald-trump-saudi-arabia.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fworld&action=click&contentCollection=world&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront

Read the rest:

“Islamic military coalition fighting terrorism” — Oman Joins Saudi Coalition

December 29, 2016

AFP

© AFP/File | Yemenis carry belongings they recovered from the rubble of buildings destroyed during Saudi-led air strikes the previous day, in the rebel-held Yemeni port city of Hodeida

RIYADH (AFP) – Oman, which generally stays neutral in the face of regional disputes, has joined a Saudi-led military coalition aimed at “fighting terrorism,” official media in Riyadh said Thursday.

The Gulf sultanate, which maintains good ties with rival powerhouses Iran and Saudi Arabia, becomes the 41st nation in the alliance announced last year by the Saudi defence minister, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The official SPA agency said Mohammed received a message from his Omani counterpart praising Saudi efforts in showing “leadership in the Islamic military coalition in fighting terrorism”.

Oman is one of the few Arab states not to have joined a Saudi-led military coalition battling rebels in Yemen and has hosted several rounds of talks aimed at ending the conflict raging there since March 2015.

Little information has been provided on the anti-extremist alliance since Riyadh announced its formation in December 2015.

Gulf Arab Allies of the U.S. Aghast at Iran’s Syria gains, Hope Trump team can turn the tide

December 20, 2016
By William Maclean | RIYADH

“Where are you, Oh Arabs, Oh Muslims, while we are being slaughtered?”

An old man’s cry, in a video posted online from Aleppo’s ruins, poses an uncomfortable question for the mainly Sunni Muslim Arab states backing rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad and his allies Iran and Russia.

For Saudi Arabia, locked in a regional struggle with Iran, Assad’s capture of the rebel haven reflects a dangerous tilt in the Middle East balance of power toward Tehran.

Dismayed by this boost to Iranian ambitions for a “Shi’ite crescent” of influence from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean, Riyadh is determined to reverse Tehran’s gains sooner or later.

Countering Iran, buoyed by its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, remains central to Gulf Arab policy but it is not clear how this might be achieved, especially when other concerns are multiplying.

Beset by low oil prices, at war in Yemen, and ties with Egypt strained, Riyadh and Gulf allies are questioning how much armed help they should now give the rebels, diplomats say.

The monarchies are frustrated with President Barack Obama’s light touch approach to the war – relying on local fighters instead of large U.S. military deployments or missile strikes.

President-elect Donald Trump poses an intriguing contrast.

“MAKE A DEAL”

Seen as more decisive than Obama, Trump’s choices of James Mattis, a retired Marine general distrustful of Iran, as Defense Secretary, and oil man Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, have pleased Gulf Arab energy exporters.

But much remains uncertain, not least Trump’s admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, an Assad ally.

“What we have learned from the U.S. election is to wait for actions, not words,” said former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal.

A senior Western diplomat said Saudi officials were curious to see how Trump translates into policy his campaign criticism of Iran and his praise of Putin.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said he had spent time in the United States to sound out the next administration.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva (2 May 2015)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (right) and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. May 2, 2016 — photo from AFP.

Officials said Gulf states were asking Trump associates about Syria, to assess whether he would pursue a U.S.-led effort with Gulf states, Turkey and Western nations to arm the rebels.

Trump has indicated he may abandon the rebels to focus on fighting Islamic State.

Gulf Arab states want to test that view, said one Western official. A Gulf state foreign ministry official described Trump as “a businessman with whom you can make a deal”.

RELIEF WILL STILL FLOW

Gulf humanitarian aid will remain: Sunni Arab societies will not accept curbs on relief to the mostly Sunni country, after a war that has forced 5 million Syrians to flee and killed 300,000.

But the extent of their armed support appears in question.

Qatar, with Saudi Arabia the most enthusiastic backer of the rebels, says it would prefer to continue military aid but insists this should remain a collective effort.

Proclaiming “great faith” in Trump, Asaad al-Zoubi, Saudi-based chief negotiator for the main opposition body, the High Negotiations Council, said some rebel backers had met Trump advisers to explain their cause. “They did not receive an answer from Trump’s people. They (the advisers) wanted to listen more than they wanted to answer,” he said.

Sami alFaraj, a security adviser to the Gulf Cooperation Council of six Gulf Arab states, told Reuters that the Gulf countries “need to regroup, have a strategic pause and look at how we pursue our objectives in the time ahead.”

“The Syrian case has not been closed,” he said. They would push for a transitional administration in Syria – something neither Assad nor Tehran accepts.

LEVERAGE

Any notion of Gulf Arab leverage in future negotiations seems far-fetched, given the determination of Assad, Moscow and Tehran to carve out territorial gains.

But Jubeir told the Arab League in Cairo that if world powers failed to constrain Assad there would be no political solution to the war.

“If we cannot find an effective way to pressure the Syrian regime, we will not reach a political solution and the killing, displacement, and injustice in Syria will go on,” Jubeir said.

While drawn to Trump, the Gulf monarchies feel his views are not fully formed, and they want to do nothing that might cause him to harm their interests.

AlFaraj said he expected Trump to deal favorably with Gulf states, which have the wealth to help create U.S. jobs. He believed a suggestion by Trump that Gulf states pay for safe zones in Syria was worth considering.

“If he wants to create jobs there is no better field than selling weapons,” alFaraj said. “We are the only people who have surplus cash.”

However, Arab resentment at Western inaction over Syria appears deep and enduring.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al Khalifa, foreign minister of Bahrain, an ally of Riyadh, told Reuters: “The whole thing in Syria was because of disengagement from world powers about how to deal with the matter. So with all the changes in the political leadership (in the West) let’s hope for some new commitment for Syria.”

Asked if it was realistic to back rebels who had lost their major urban stronghold, he replied: “Do you think its realistic that we should also allow such bloodshed and people dying to go on and on and on. What’s the next city after Aleppo?”

(Additional reporting by Katie Paul; Editing by Giles Elgood)