US President Donald Trump salutes as he steps from Air Force One upon his arrival at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, U.S., May 17, 2017. (Reuters)
United States President Donald Trump will use his upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia to encourage Gulf states to form a NATO-like force for the Middle East, a senior administration official was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.
According to a Washington Post report, discussions of the project said that in addition to Saudi Arabia, initial participants in the coalition would include the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan, with the United States playing an organizing and support role while staying outside of the proposed alliance.
The news comes as the US is close to completing a series of arms deals with the kingdom totaling more than $100 billion, a senior White House official told Reuters earlier this month. Over 10 years, total sales could reach $350 billion.
A day earlier, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced the launch of a state-owned military industrial company aimed at contributing more than 14 billion riyals ($3.7 billion) to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product by 2030.
Trump is scheduled to be in Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites, from Saturday on his first foreign trip since taking office in January.
The Saudi-hosted summit of Arab and Muslim leaders is expected to include top level talks on Sunday.
Trump will also give a major speech on the Islamic faith during visit to Saudi Arabia, home to the religion’s holiest shrines, the White House said on Tuesday.
“He will meet and have lunch with leaders of more than 50 Muslim countries, where he will deliver an inspiring, direct speech on the need to confront radical ideology and the president’s hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam,” National Security Advisor HR McMaster told reporters.