President Donald Trump, in the first stop of his maiden trip abroad, received a regal welcome today in Saudi Arabia, feted by the wealthy kingdom as he aims to forge strong alliances to combat terrorism while pushing past the multiple controversies threatening to engulf his young administration. For one day, anyway, Trump appeared successful in keeping his domestic woes an ocean away, as he basked in the pageantry that began with an elaborate airport welcome ceremony punctuated by a military flyover and a handshake from Saudi King Salman. He later was given a tour of one of Riyadh's most opulent palaces and sat through an elaborate signing ceremony in which, one by one, the Saudis agreed to military deals with the US government and private businesses. Trump was kept a distance from reporters who were unable to ask about the tumult at home. Trump is the only American president to make Saudi Arabia, or any majority Muslim country, his first stop overseas - a choice designed in part to show respect to the region after more than a year of Trump's harsh anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric. The visit kicked off an ambitious international debut for Trump. After two days of meetings here, Trump will travel to Israel, have an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican and meet with allies at a NATO summit in Brussels and the Group of 7 powerful nations in Sicily. Trump waved from the doorway after Air Force One touched down and before descending the staircase with first lady Melania Trump. The 81-year-old King Salman, who used a cane for support, was brought to the steps of the plane in a golf cart.
The leaders exchanged pleasantries and Trump said it was "a great honour" to be there. Several jets then flew overhead leaving a red, white and blue trail. Soon after, Trump tweeted for the first time on international soil as president, writing that it was "great" to be in Saudi Arabia. At a later ceremony at the grand Saudi Royal Court, the king placed the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud, the nation's highest civilian honour, around Trump's neck. The medal, given to Trump for his efforts to strengthen ties in the region, has also been bestowed on Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama. The king and Trump were overheard discussing natural resources and arms, and the king bemoaned the destruction caused by Syria's civil war. Trump also agreed to a defense cooperation deal with the Saudis, pledging USD 110 billion effective immediately and up to USD 350 billion over 10 years, as well as some private sector agreements. The military package includes tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, radar and communications, and cybersecurity technology.
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