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Rubio Wraps Up Middle East Trip That Included Emir, Troops, Christian Leaders

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) meets with troops at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar on May 2. (Photo by Sen. Marco Rubio's office)

WASHINGTON — As Donald Trump became the presumptive GOP nominee this week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was on a recess-week trip through the Middle East that produced a bevy of presidential-level photo ops.

Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, first headed to Qatar on Monday, where he met with Qatar Minister of State for Defense Affairs Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, and Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. He had dinner with U.S. troops at Al Udeid Air Base.

“During my meetings with officials in Qatar, I thanked them for remaining a key U.S. partner in the region. I was also able to visit with U.S. military servicemembers, including Floridians,” Rubio said.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) meets with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, on May 2, 2016. (Photo by Sen. Marco Rubio's office)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) meets with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, on May 2, 2016. (Photo by Sen. Marco Rubio’s office)

On Tuesday, the former GOP presidential candidate headed to Iraq to sit down with Council of Representatives Speaker Saleem al-Jabouri. He headed to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to meet with staff there. The next day, he sat down with Kurdistan Region Security Council Chancellor Masrur Barzani.

Rubio said he “stressed to Iraqi officials my grave concerns about ‎the ongoing sectarian rivalries and political turmoil that are taking the focus off of ISIS and threaten not only Iraq’s stability but that of the entire world.”

“I also was able to thank Kurdish officials for their assistance in the fight against ISIS,” he added.

Also on Wednesday, Rubio met with Archbishop of Erbil, Iraq, Bashar Matti Warda and the Archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Mosul, Nicodemus Sharaf, to discuss the persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria.

“It was very important to me to show all Christians in the Middle‎ East that I stand in solidarity with them, and will continue praying for their safety and working on their behalf in the Senate,” Rubio said. “I was inspired by these brave individuals of faith who refuse to be silenced by intolerant and hateful barbarians like ISIS. This visit has renewed my commitment to them and religious freedom everywhere around the world.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is greeted by the Archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Mosul, Nicodemus Sharaf, in Erbil on May 4. (Photo by Sen. Marco Rubio's office)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is greeted by the Archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Mosul, Nicodemus Sharaf, in Erbil on May 4. (Photo by Sen. Marco Rubio’s office)

Rubio wrapped up his trip in Turkey, where he met with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, human rights activists Osman Isci and Musa Toprak, and staff at the U.S. consulate in Istanbul. He then toured the famous Blue Mosque.

“Many of the problems currently plaguing the Middle East, as well as the migratory pressures facing the EU, cannot be solved without Turkey at the table playing a leadership role, and I reiterated that to officials there and urged them to keep working with the United States to address these shared challenges,” Rubio said.

“For many decades, Turkey has served as a model of what a Muslim-majority country can aspire to and ultimately become when it rejects the radicalism and intolerance of a few in favor of the freedom and opportunities of the many. I hope that continues in the 21st century.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) meets with U.S. consulate staff in Istanbul on May 6, 2016. (Photo by Sen. Marco Rubio's office)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) meets with U.S. consulate staff in Istanbul on May 6, 2016. (Photo by Sen. Marco Rubio’s office)