RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Saturday presented Donald Trump with the Kingdom’s top civilian honor, as the US president began a trip to Riyadh aimed at strengthening security and economic ties.
The king placed the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud around Trump’s neck at a ceremony at the Royal Court in Riyadh.
The host of the event declared that Trump was being honored for “his quest to enhance security and stability in the region and around the world.”
The honor has also been bestowed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.
Trump was joined by first lady Melania Trump and several senior White House aides who were interspersed with Saudi officials throughout a grand ballroom.
Trump landed in Saudi Arabia earlier Saturday for a historic meeting tipped to “turn the page” on US-Arab affairs after a strained relationship under the previous American administration.
The president touched down in Riyadh and was welcomed by King Salman and senior Saudi officials.
Stepping off Air Force One with his wife, Melania, Trump and his entourage received a red-carpet welcome.
After a royal banquet, Trump and the king were to have private talks and participate in a signing ceremony for a number of US-Saudi agreements, including a deal worth a reported $100 billion for Saudi Arabia to buy American arms.
National oil giant Saudi Aramco is expected to sign $50 billion of deals with US companies on Saturday, part of a drive to diversify the Kingdom’s economy beyond oil exports, Aramco’s chief executive Amin Nasser said.
Trump is to deliver a speech on Sunday aimed at rallying Muslims in the fight against terrorism. His first official foreign trip since taking office will coincide with three key summits on Saturday and Sunday, as well as several business activities, cultural, intellectual and sports celebrations.
The Saudi-US Summit, on Saturday, features a series of bilateral meetings between King Salman and Trump, and “focus on re-affirming the long-standing friendship, and strengthening the close political, economic, security and cultural bonds between the two nations.”
It will be followed Sunday by the GCC-US Summit, Arab Islamic American Summit, and the inauguration of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology.
— With AP