DONALD Trump has urged Muslim countries to join his fight against terrorism in his first major foreign policy address as US president.
He told a meeting of more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia yesterday: “Terrorists don’t worship God, they worship death.”
The speech was the centrepiece of Mr Trump’s two-day visit to the country as part of his first overseas trip.
He said the US is prepared to stand with them in the fight against extremists, but Arab and Muslim countries must take the lead.
He urged them to drive extremists “out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your community. Drive them out of your holy land”.
He told the Arab-Islamic American summit in Riyadh that “95 per cent of the victims of terrorist attacks are themselves Muslims”.
In a departure from the sometimes anti-Muslim rhetoric of his presidential campaign, he said terrorism must not only be measured by the number of dead but by the number of “vanished dreams”.
The US sought a coalition of nations in the Middle East with the aim of “stamping out extremism”.
Mr Trump said Syrian president Bashar al-Assad had committed “unspeakable crimes” bolstered by Iran.
He also called upon countries around the world to work together to end the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
He denounced Iranian aggression in the region and said the “longest-suffering victims” are the Iranian people who have “endured hardship and despair under their leaders’ reckless pursuit of conflict and terror”.
He added: “Every nation has an absolute duty to ensure that terrorists find no quarter on their soil.” Mr Trump said terrorist groups “do nothing to inspire but kill” and all countries must work together to “honestly” confront “the crisis of Islamic extremists and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds”.
He stopped short of mentioning “radical Islamic terrorism” – a term he uses frequently in the US and which he condemned former president Barack Obama for failing to say.
Mr Trump said the fight against terrorism “is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilisations. This is a battle between those who seek to obliterate human life and those who seek to protect it.”
Mr Trump also vowed to “strengthen America’s oldest friendships and to seek new partners in pursuit of peace”.
He promised “America will not seek to impose our way of life on others, but to outstretch our hands in the spirit of cooperation and trust”.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia said he was committed to stamping out Islamic State and other terrorist organisations and called Iran “the spearhead of global terrorism”.
The US and six Gulf states were expected to sign a deal to coordinate their efforts aimed at cutting off sources of money for extremist groups, including Islamic State.
Meanwhile Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed all his cabinet ministers to attend the official welcome taking place for Mr Trump yesterday after some of them said they were not planning to attend the event.
Mr Trump’s arrival was initially planned to include speeches and greetings with a long list of dignitaries on the tarmac of Ben-Gurion international airport.
Later, the White House asked for a brief ceremony to avoid the heat. As a result, most ministers were planning to skip the event.
Local newspapers reported that Mr Netanyahu fumed at his ministers and ordered them all to attend yesterday’s ceremony.