May 4 2017, 12:29 pm ET
by Andrew Rafferty
President Donald Trump’s first foreign trip since entering office will take him to Israel, the Vatican and Saudi Arabia later this month, a senior White House official confirmed to NBC News.
Trump will end his trip in Brussels with a visit to NATO on May 25, followed by a meeting at the G7 summit in Sicily.
In remarks in the Rose Garden on Thursday, Trump said the trip "will begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies to combat extremism, terrorism and violence and to embrace a more just and hopeful future for young Muslims in their countries."
"Our task is not to dictate to other how to live, but to build a coalition of friends and partners who share the goal of fighting terrorism," the president added.Trump Announces First Overseas Trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Rome 1:45
Trump’s first stop in Saudi Arabia will be vital to that effort. White House officials told reporters that Saudi leaders will bring together Arab leaders to craft a breakthrough down the road on Middle East peace.
The president’s first foreign trip is typically seen as a signal of the new administration’s priorities. So it is no surprise the president will visit Israel, which Trump pledged to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with during his 2016 campaign, and he has since promised to help broker a peace deal with the Palestinians.
The announcement comes on the heels of Trump’s meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday. Trump has said he wants to serve as a "mediator, arbiter or facilitator" to help Israel and Palestine reach a peace accord but added, "Any agreement cannot be imposed by the United States or any other nations."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the White House in February.
The NATO visit is also a significant stop for the president’s first foreign swing. As a candidate, Trump railed against NATO, claiming the United States contributes too much with little in return. But last month Trump said the organization was "no longer obsolete" but he is continuing to insist many member countries must spend more on defense as the alliance requires.
Trump has also had a history with Pope Francis, who once said of candidate Trump: "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian." The comment drew a sharp rebuke from Trump.
"If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president because this would not have happened," Trump said in a statement last year.
The pope later, after Trump was elected, sent the newly minted president well wishes and said he was praying that his "decisions will be guided by the rich spiritual and ethical values that have shaped the history of the American people and your nation’s commitment to the advancement of human dignity and freedom worldwide."Andrew RaffertyContributors Andrea Mitchell, Kristen Welker and Halimah AbdullahFirst Published May 4 2017, 10:52 am ET
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