Turkey’s Erdogan hopes for a ‘new era’ in relations with Saudi Arabia

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hoped to ‘open the doors to a new era’ in relations with Saudi Arabia as he left for his first trip to the Gulf kingdom since the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi has caused a deep rift between the two regional powers. .

Speaking before flying to Jeddah for meetings with King Salman and his son Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince, Erdogan said the two nations wanted to increase their political, economic, military and cultural cooperation.

“We will discuss Turkish-Saudi relations in all their dimensions,” he told a press conference. His visit follows a months-long campaign by Ankara to mend its damaged ties with Saudi Arabia and other regional enemies.

Erdogan’s meeting with Prince Mohammed, who rules the country on a daily basis, will be highly symbolic given that the Turkish president has indirectly accused him of ordering the killing of Khashoggi, a former Washington Post columnist who was killed and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. in 2018. His assassination by a Saudi security team led to a breakdown in relations between Riyadh and Ankara.

Although the Turkish president has never criticized the Saudi crown prince by name, Erdogan said the killing was ordered by the “highest levels” of the Saudi government, while making it clear that he did not blame King Salman. A stream of leaks with grizzly details about the murder have been seen by analysts as an attempt to tarnish the crown prince’s image.

Saudi Arabia has proven to be one of the most difficult relationships to sort out as Erdogan embarked on a significant change in foreign policy early last year. Turkey’s president has launched a campaign to rebuild his country’s ties with former regional adversaries, including the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Armenia and Israel, as well as with the West.

The first significant breakthrough came earlier this month when an Istanbul court halted the trial of 26 Saudis who were being tried in absentia for Khashoggi’s murder – a key request from Riyadh. Saudi Arabia had already convicted and imprisoned a number of suspects, although it cleared a senior Prince Mohammed official and a former senior intelligence official accused of involvement in the murder.

Meanwhile, Turkish business groups said the Gulf state had begun easing an unofficial embargo that had hit the country’s exports and was widely seen as an act of retaliation against Turkey for its response. in the Khashoggi case.

Turkish officials hope that restoring ties with the oil-rich kingdom will boost their economy through Saudi investment in their country and boosting trade.

Turkish Finance Minister Nureddin Nebati on Wednesday held a video call with his Saudi counterpart, Mohammed al-Jadaan, to “exchange ideas on improving cooperation in economy, trade and finance.” investment”.

Erdogan badly needs an influx of foreign capital to help fill a trade deficit fueled by soaring global energy and commodity prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Analysts say Turkey’s large import bill, combined with runaway inflation, is likely to put further pressure on the volatile Turkish lira in the coming months.

Erdogan, a practicing Muslim, will travel to the city of Makkah on Friday to perform prayers at Islam’s holiest site in the closing days of the holy month of Ramadan.

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