US

Saudi king touts Trump's Islamic summit as "new partnership"

Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Monday touted an upcoming meeting between President Donald Trump and heads of state from across Muslim-majority nations as the start of a new relationship that will strengthen global security.

Trump is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia this weekend for his first overseas trip as president, which will also include stops in Israel and the Vatican.

The kingdom, in an effort to show its reach and convening powers, has invited dozens of heads of state from across the Middle East, Africa and Asia to a summit with Trump on Sunday. Some local media reports say more than 50 top dignitaries were invited by the Saudi monarch to attend.

Trump and Salman will be meeting for the first time in Saudi Arabia on Saturday for bilateral talks aimed at repairing relations that were strained under the Obama administration. Saudi Arabia views Trump's visit as a way to shore up support among its allies and with Washington against its rival Iran.

The leaders of Syria and Iran were not invited to the summit. The Sunni-ruled kingdom of Saudi Arabia is backing efforts to topple the Syrian government, which is backed by Shiite-ruled Iran.

Salman praised Trump in a telephone call in April, describing him as "courageous" for authorizing a U.S. military strike on a Syrian air base following a chemical attack there. He also dispatched his son and the second-in-line to the throne, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to Washington for a meeting with Trump in March and appointed another as ambassador to Washington to strengthen ties under Trump.

Salman expressed hope the May 21 summit with Arab and Muslim leaders "will establish a new partnership in confronting extremism and terrorism," according to a statement he made during a weekly Cabinet meeting and published by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Trump is also expected to meet separately with the Arab rulers of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council during his visit to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-led GCC includes the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain, which is host to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

The Saudi monarch said the bilateral U.S.-Saudi talks will strengthen relations between the two countries and enhance global security.

He said the subsequent U.S.-GCC talks will contribute to consolidating Gulf solidarity and peace in the region. All of the GCC countries except Oman are part of a Saudi-led coalition that has been bombing an Iranian-allied faction in Yemen for more than two years. Washington has backed the coalition with logistical and intelligence support.

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Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.