Why Trump chose Saudi Arabia for first foreign trip

Trump plans on visiting Israel, the Vatican and Saudi Arabia

ByJONATHAN KARL, CECILIA VEGA and JOHN SANTUCCI
May 4, 2017, 4:59 PM

— -- President Donald Trump is expected to visit Israel, the Vatican and Saudi Arabia later this month on his first foreign trip as president, two senior administration officials confirmed for ABC News.

Trump is also planning to attend the NATO meeting in Brussels and the G-7 summit in Sicily.

A senior administration official said that Saudi Arabia will be the first country visited and that the symbolism is intentional.

The stop deviates from the pattern of the last five presidents, who visited the United States' neighbors, Canada (Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush) and Mexico (George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan) first.

The official explained: “the reason why we chose the Saudis first is because they are the custodians of the two Holy Mosques.”

Asked for elaboration, the official added, "We thought that was very important because obviously people have tried to portray the president in a certain way, but I think that what he wants to do is solve the same problem that a lot of the leaders in the Islamic world want to do."

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and the location of two of the religion's holiest sites.

The official explained that the administration expects Saudi Arabia to bring together a number of leaders from majority-Muslim countries in order to discuss common interests as a group.

"We thought that that was a good place to start and look one of the biggest problems that we face in the world today is radical extremism and we have to combat," said the official.

According to the official, the transition team started working with the Saudis on the visit shortly after the election.

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