Saudi Arabia and Turkey seek to reset relations
Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia who is widely considered to be the de facto ruler of the kingdom, is visiting Turkey on Wednesday. He is to have talks with President Tayyip Erdogan in a second meeting of the two this year after a pause since the 2018 assassination of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.
Ankara expects “a full normalization and a restoration of the pre-crisis period,” a senior Turkish official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “A new era will begin.”
Jamal Khashoggi was killed by a Saudi hit squad at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. Ankara was angered by the fact that it was indirectly dragged into a crime, which Turkish officials blamed on the senior leadership of Saudi Arabia.
The perpetrators stood trial in their home country while the royal palace rejected assertions that Prince Mohammed personally ordered the hit. Riyadh claimed its security agents “went rogue” in Istanbul.
The diplomatic rift between the two nations was partially mended in April, when Erdogan paid a visit to Saudi Arabia and met the crown prince. Amid the reconciliation process, Ankara and Riyadh toned down their mutual criticisms. At the same time Turkey announced that it was halting the trial in absentia of 26 Saudi suspects in the Khashoggi murder and transferring the case to Saudi Arabia.
Observers believe that the Turkish leader is interested in Saudi assistance to boost his country’s economy, which has suffered amid the global slowdown. Erdogan is facing a challenging bid to be reelected as Turkish president next year.
In February, Erdogan visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a close ally of Saudi Arabia, for the first time in nearly a decade. Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who was then the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, went to Ankara in November last year. The UAE announced the launch of a $10 billion fund for investments into Turkey following his trip.
Turkey’s change of stance towards Saudi Arabia is not unlike that of the United States. President Joe Biden, who pledged on his election campaign trail to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” over the murder, is set to visit the country next month. His administration is struggling to rein in the surge of gas prices in the US and seeks a boost in production by the Gulf kingdom.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman paid visits to Jordan and Egypt earlier this week.