Radio Free Europe
Sunday, 21 May 2016
U.S. President Donald Trump has called for a "coalition of nations" in the Middle East to come together with the aim of "stamping out extremism" during a landmark speech on May 21, the second day of his visit to Saudi Arabia.
In his address to the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, before more than 50 regional leaders, Trump also accused Iran of fueling "the fires of sectarian conflict and terror" and called for its international isolation.
Trump put the onus in the fight against extremism on the region, telling Muslim leaders that they must "drive out" the terrorists in their countries
"A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists," he said. "Drive them out. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of the holy land."
Trump promised "that America will not seek to impose our way of life on others, but to outstretch our hands in the spirit of cooperation and trust."
"This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations," Trump said. "This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between good and evil."
"We are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship," Trump added. "Instead, we are here to offer partnership based on shared interests and values."
Trump's stance was later underlined by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a joint news conference with his Saudi counterpart.
"The president is clearly indicating that this fight of good against evil has nothing to do with religion. It has nothing to do with country. It has nothing to do with ethnicity," Tillerson said.
Much of the focus during the summit was on countering what Gulf states see as the threat from Iran, which opposes Saudi Arabia in a range of regional conflicts from Syria to Yemen.
Sitting alongside Trump, Saudi King Salman declared, "The Iranian regime has been the spearhead of global terrorism."
Trump himself criticized Tehran for supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying Tehran's support allowed Assad to commit "unspeakable crimes" during Syria's six-year civil war.
"From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region," Trump said.
"Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate it," he added.
Tillerson added that Tehran has Iran continued "its hegemonic activities in this region."
"We will continue to take action through sanctions and we will continue to encourage others in the global community to take action as well so that Iran understands this is not acceptable," he added.
Earlier on May 21, Trump met with leaders of the countries from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh. The Gulf Cooperation Council consists of six Arab nations which are traditional allies of the United States -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Trump's address was the centerpiece of his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, his first stop overseas as president.
The speech is one of the key moments of his first foreign trip, which will also take him to Israel, Vatican City, a Group of Seven meeting in Sicily, and a NATO gathering in Brussels.
It was closely watched given the anti-Muslim comments by Trump during his presidential campaign and his attempt after his inauguration to institute a temporary U.S. entry ban on nationals and refugees from several Muslim-majority countries, although not including Saudi Arabia.
After leaving Saudi Arabia, Trump will arrive in Israel for a May 22 meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a visit to the Western Wall and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.