RIYADH: Eliminating terror and extremism is not a one-country responsibility, but a challenge facing all nations that requires them to unite to overcome it, US President Donald Trump said Sunday while addressing the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh.
In his first speech on foreign soil, in Saudi Arabia, Trump said the fight against extremism is “a battle between good and evil,” calling on Muslim nations to take the lead in stamping out terror.
“I stand before you as a representative of the American people to deliver a message of friendship and hope. That is why I chose to make my first foreign visit a trip to the heart of the Muslim world, to the nation that serves as custodian of the two holiest sites in the Islamic faith,” Trump said in his address, which mainly focused on the importance of unity against extremism and terrorism.
“I ask you to join me, to join together, to work together, and to fight together, because united we will not fail… The path to peace begins right here,” Trump said.
“Every nation has an absolute duty to ensure that terrorists find no quarter on their soil… But the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries and for their children. It is a choice between two futures, and it is a choice America cannot make for you. A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists,” Trump said, adding that the US is committed to adjusting its strategies to meet evolving threats and new facts.
“Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honor to God,” he said, adding that a gathering of so many world leaders is a symbol of shared resolve and mutual respect.
“Yesterday (Saturday), we signed historic agreements with the Kingdom that will invest almost $400 billion in our two countries and create many thousands of jobs in America and Saudi Arabia. This landmark agreement includes the announcement of a $110 billion Saudi-funded defense purchase, and we will be sure to help our Saudi friends to get a good deal from our great American defense companies. This agreement will help the Saudi military to take a greater role in security operations,” he said.
He said America is a sovereign nation, and its first priority is always the safety and security of its citizens.
But he said his visit and meetings do not mean the US is trying to impose its agenda on the region or on any country.
“We are not here to lecture, we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership, based on shared interests and values, to pursue a better future for us all,” Trump said.
“We must be united in pursuing the one goal that transcends every other consideration. That goal is to meet history’s great test: To conquer extremism and vanquish the forces of terrorism. Young Muslim boys and girls should be able to grow up free from fear, safe from violence and innocent of hatred. And young Muslim men and women should have the chance to build a new era of prosperity for themselves and their peoples,” he added.
“This summit will mark the beginning of the end for those who practice terror and spread its vile creed. At the same time, we pray this special gathering may someday be remembered as the beginning of peace in the Middle East, and maybe even all over the world.”
Trump said while the West has suffered from the barbarity of terrorism, “in sheer numbers the deadliest toll has been exacted on the innocent people of Arab, Muslim and Middle Eastern nations. They have borne the brunt of the killings and the worst of the destruction in this wave of fanatical violence. Some estimates hold that more than 95 percent of the victims of terrorism are themselves Muslim.”
Trump said the region is facing a humanitarian and security disaster that is spreading across the planet.
“It is a tragedy of epic proportions. No description of the suffering and depravity can begin to capture its full measure. The true toll of ISIS (Daesh), Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and so many others must be counted not only in the number of dead. It must also be counted in generations of vanished dreams,” he said.
The Middle East is rich with natural beauty, vibrant cultures and massive amounts of historic treasures, and should become one of the great global centers of commerce and opportunity, he added.
“This region should not be a place from which refugees flee, but to which newcomers flock,” he said.
Trump said the Middle East is rich with opportunities that are yet to be properly utilized in the interest of its peoples.
“Sixty-five percent of its population is under the age of 30. Like all young men and women, they seek great futures to build, great national projects to join, and a place for their families to call home. But this untapped potential, this tremendous cause for optimism, is held at bay by bloodshed and terror. There can be no coexistence with this violence. There can be no tolerating it, no accepting it, no excusing it and no ignoring it,” he said.
Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person and falsely invokes the name of God should be an insult to every person of faith, he said, adding that terrorists worship death, not God.
He called for no delays in fighting terror, adding that any leniency in the battle would lead to more devastation of life.
“If we do not act against this organized terror, then we know what will happen. Peaceful societies will become engulfed by violence, and the futures of many generations will be sadly squandered. If we do not stand in uniform condemnation of this killing, then not only will we be judged by our people, not only will we be judged by history, but we will be judged by God,” he said.
“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations. 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.”
Trump said terror is not particular to a certain sect or religion. “When we see the scenes of destruction in the wake of terror, we see no signs that those murdered were Jewish or Christian, Shiite or Sunni. When we look upon the streams of innocent blood soaked into the ancient ground, we cannot see the faith or sect or tribe of the victims. We see only that they were children of God, whose deaths are an insult to all that is holy,” he said.
“Muslim nations must be willing to take on the burden if we are going to defeat terrorism and send its wicked ideology into oblivion.”
Regarding the Palestinian cause, Trump said for many centuries the Middle East has been home to Christians, Muslims and Jews living side by side, so the peoples in the region must practice tolerance and respect for each other once again so everyone, no matter their faith or ethnicity, can enjoy a life of dignity and hope.
“In that spirit, after concluding my visit in Riyadh, I will travel to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and then to the Vatican, visiting many of the holiest places in the three Abrahamic faiths. If these three faiths can join together in cooperation, then peace in this world is possible, including peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” he said, adding that he will meet with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Starving terrorists of their territory, their funding, and the false allure of their ideology is the basis for defeating them, Trump said.
“But no discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three: Safe harbor, financial backing and the social standing needed for recruitment. It is a regime that is responsible for so much instability in the region. I am speaking of course of Iran,” he said.
“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. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror. It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room,” he said, adding that among Iran’s most tragic and destabilizing interventions has been in Syria.
“Bolstered by Iran, (Syrian President Bashar) Assad has committed unspeakable crimes, and the United States has taken firm action in response to the use of banned chemical weapons by the Assad regime, launching 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Syrian air base from where that murderous attack originated,” he said.
Responsible nations must work together to end the humanitarian crisis in Syria, eradicate Daesh and restore regional stability, Trump added.
“The Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims are its own people. Iran has a rich history and culture, but the people of Iran have endured hardship and despair under their leaders’ reckless pursuit of conflict and terror,” he said.
Until Tehran is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate it, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve, he added.