Trump arrives in Saudi Arabia, with domestic struggles looming over first foreign trip


President Trump has arrived in Saudi Arabia’s capital to begin an eight-day foreign tour that will test the new administration’s capacity to manage complex international diplomacy and a growing political crisis at home.

Air Force One touched down at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport just before 10 a.m. local time, delivering the Republican who has angered Muslims around the world with his proposed travel ban to the nation that houses Islam’s most holy sites.

Saudi’s royal family is offering an elaborate welcome to a new U.S. president for whom they have great hopes of resetting a bilateral relationship that became increasingly strained during the Obama administration over its pursuit of a nuclear agreement with rival Iran.

The president, joined by First Lady Melania Trump, was greeted by Saudi King Salman on a red carpet rolled to the foot of the presidential jet, just moments before a military flyover.

“It’s a great honor,” Trump told the Saudi leader.

Trump and Salman proceeded to the airport’s VIP arrival terminal, chatting and sipping coffee for five minutes before the president boarded his motorcade to drive to his hotel.

The king was to host the U.S. president and the U.S. delegation later Saturday at the Royal Court for a banquet luncheon, presenting him with the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud, among the nation’s highest honors. The two leaders are also expected to sign agreements locking in a new $110-billion arms package to Saudi Arabia, and investments by the Arab state in the U.S. economy.

Trump will then hold separate meetings with the Saudi crown prince and deputy crown prince before traveling to the Murabba Palace for a third welcome ceremony and royal banquet dinner.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told reporters aboard Air Force One that the president spent the flight meeting with staff, reading newspapers and working on a major speech on Islam he is scheduled to deliver on Sunday to the Arab Islamic Summit.

The rest of the flight was spent getting very little sleep, Priebus said.

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