WASHINGTON, U.S. – Amid the escalating controversy over Donald Trump’s travel ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, the U.S. president on Sunday had long phone conversations with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
The calls were aimed at solidifying his relationship with the leaders of key Arab allies and the most powerful states in the region.
The White House in a statement said Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, in the hour-long telephone call agreed to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen, in line with Trump’s campaign promise.
“The president requested, and the King agreed, to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen, as well as supporting other ideas to help the many refugees who are displaced by the ongoing conflicts,” the statement said.
The two leaders “agreed on the importance of strengthening joint efforts to fight the spread of radical Islamic terrorism and also on the importance of working jointly to address challenges to regional peace and security, including the conflicts in Syria and Yemen,” the White House added.
The Saudi Press Agency, in an initial readout of the call, said the two leaders had affirmed the “depth and durability of the strategic relationship” between the two countries, but did not specifically mention the safe zones.
The agency, however, later said “the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques had confirmed his support and backing for setting up safe zones in Syria.” Yemen was not mentioned.
Trump also praised the Middle East nation’s Vision2030 plan, and the two committed to “strengthen bilateral economic and energy cooperation.”
In addition to combating radical Islamic terrorism and boosting economic ties and cooperating in regional Middle-Eastern security, the two leaders agreed to tackle Iran’s “destabilizing regional activities” in the region, the White House said.
According to the statement, the U.S. president agreed with the Saudi king on “the importance of rigorously enforcing” the Iran nuclear deal, in contrast to Trump’s past longstanding opposition to the deal.
The White House statement said the two also discussed what it called an invitation from the king for the U.S. president “to lead a Middle East effort to defeat terrorism and to help build a new future, economically and socially,” for Saudi Arabia and the region.
Saudi Arabia, which is one of the U.S.’s oldest allies in the Middle East, is generally in favor of Trump’s election and his choice of Rex Tillerson, the former chairman of Exxon Mobil Corp., as secretary of state.
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