U.S. President Donald Trump has chosen Saudi Arabia as the very first international destination he will visit since taking office in January.
He will travel to the kingdom later this month to discuss Middle East peace and the ongoing battle against extremist groups such as ISIS with Saudi leaders.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir hailed the visit as historic. He also said that the trip demonstrates that the U.S. and the Muslim world do not stand in opposition to one another.
"It also lays to rest the notion that America is anti-Muslim," Jubeir said, according to TIME.
"It's a very clear message to the world that the U.S. and the Arab Muslim countries can form a partnership," he said.
Trump said the visit "will begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies," adding that the goal is for "a more just and hopeful future for young Muslims in their countries."
"Our task is not to dictate to others how to live, but to build a coalition of friends and partners who share the goal of fighting terrorism," he said, according to NBC News.
Saudi leaders have consistently expressed enthusiasm for Trump
In January, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir said that the kingdom's interests "align" with those of Trump.
"The objectives we want to achieve are the same," he said.
Jubeir explained that Saudi Arabia and Donald Trump's administration may have some disagreements "on how to get there," but they don't disagree on "what needs to be done."
A former Saudi diplomat also told The Washington Post in November that most members of the royal family "are happy with the result" of the election, saying Saudis "are closer to Republicans [Trump's political party] psychologically."
Trump's position on Saudi Arabia is less clear
In March, Trump met with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House. A senior advisor for the prince called the meeting "a historical turning point" for relations between the two countries.
While Trump appears to be developing a warm relationship with Riyadh since taking office, his comments regarding the kingdom have varied greatly.
"Frankly, Saudi Arabia has not treated us fairly, because we are losing a tremendous amount of money in defending Saudi Arabia," Trump said in April.
On the presidential campaign trail, Trump suggested he would block all oil imports from the kingdom and routinely criticized his political opponent, Hillary Clinton, for her close relationship with Riyadh.
At the same time, Trump has made it clear that he really likes Saudi money.
"[Saudis] buy apartments from me," Trump said during a campaign rally in 2015, according to The Hill. "They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”
Trump also has repeatedly criticized Islam, even calling for a ban on all Muslims entering the U.S. He has tried twice to block immigrants and refugees from several Muslim majority countries from entering the U.S. Both attempts were blocked in courts and Saudi Arabia was not targeted by the travel ban.
What is Trump's plan for Middle East peace?
Jared Kushner, Trump's Jewish son-in-law, has been tasked with overseeing Middle East peace.
Since taking office, Trump has met with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, expressing optimism that the decades old conflict will be resolved under his leadership.
"We believe Israel is willing, we believe you're willing, and if you both are willing, we're going to make a deal," Trump said after a meeting at the White House with Abbas this week.
Trump also said that finding a resolution is "maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years."
Some experts have suggested that Trump and Kushner are pushing for an agreement between Sunni Arab states and the Israeli government to resolve the conflict.
"There are some quite interesting ideas circulating on the potential for U.S.-Israeli-Arab discussions on regional security in which Israeli-Palestinian issues would play a significant role,” Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The New York Times in February.
After his visit to Saudi Arabia, Trump is slated to visit Israel and the Vatican before heading to Brussels.