Turkey's Erdogan visits Saudi Arabia to ease tensions

BEIRUT, Lebanon — President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey will visit Saudi Arabia on Thursday for the first time in nearly five years,...


BEIRUT, Lebanon — President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey will visit Saudi Arabia on Thursday for the first time in nearly five years, capping its recent efforts to improve relations with the oil-rich kingdom at a time of deep economic distress home and to ease years of tension over the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

Mr Erdogan is expected to arrive on Thursday evening and meet the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salmanthe de facto Saudi leader, after breaking the daily Ramadan fast.

Speaking to reporters at the airport ahead of his departure for Saudi Arabia, Erdogan said the trip was part of Turkey’s efforts to promote peace, dialogue and diplomacy in the region.

“My visit is a manifestation of our common desire to start a new period of cooperation as two brotherly countries with historical, cultural and human ties,” he said.

Turkey granted a Saudi request this month to transfer the trial of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia, a ruling that ended the latest case which rights activists hoped would further clarify how the murder took place. It was killed in 2018 by Saudi agents inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and the transfer of the trial was most likely a precondition for Mr. Erdogan’s visit.

Sinan Ulgen, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe who studies Turkish foreign policy, said the visit comes after others aimed at improving Turkey’s ties with countries in the region. Mr Erdogan visited the United Arab Emirates, a close Saudi ally, in February, and received President Isaac Herzog of Israel in Turkey in March.

The visit to Saudi Arabia most likely came later because the issue of the Turkish trial of suspects in the Khashoggi murder case needed to be resolved first, Ulgen said.

“It is Erdogan who is giving in to pressure from the Saudis to normalize relations,” he said.

According to a tentative schedule, Mr. Erdogan is expected to have dinner on Thursday with King Salman, the Saudi monarch, and meet Prince Mohammed, the king’s son and designated successor. In his comments before leaving Turkey, Erdogan said he aimed to increase cooperation with Saudi Arabia on issues such as energy, food security, defense and finance.

“We will discuss all these issues,” he said.

This visit also comes at a turbulent time for energy markets due to the war in Ukraine. Turkey gets much of its gas from Russia, and Mr Erdogan said cutting Moscow would hurt Turkey’s economy.

Creeping inflation is one of the Turkish government’s biggest domestic challenges, so Erdogan might be interested in Saudi Arabia’s role as one of the world’s largest oil exporters. in controlling world prices.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia have long clashed over major rifts in the Middle East, especially after the Arab Spring uprisings that spread across the region in the early 2010s. Turkey has largely supported protest movements and Islamist groups, while Saudi Arabia sought to overthrow them and actively supported some of the region’s strongmen.

Relations soured further after 2018, when Saudi agents killed and dismembered Mr. Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi media figure who had moved to the US and become a vocal critic of the Saudi crown prince, including in columns from the Washington Post.

The crime, whose sounds were captured by Turkish intelligence with insects planted inside the consulate, shocked the world, and Mr Erdogan’s government released gory details to keep the story in the headlines and embarrass Prince Mohammed.

Although he never accused Prince Mohammed by name of orchestrating the murder, Mr Erdogan said the decision to kill Mr Khashoggi came from “highest levelsfrom the Saudi government, leaving little doubt as to who he was talking about.

Prince Mohammed denied knowing about the plot against Mr Khashoggi, but an assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency concluded that he approved of the plan to kill or capture Mr. Khashoggi.

More recently, Erdogan has sought to improve ties with countries in the Middle East with which his government had disagreed over the Arab Spring and other issues, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

At least part of the motivation is economic. The Turkish economy was hit by inflation of over 60% and the value of the local currency plummeted, leaving many Turks feel much poorer than they were not so long ago. Turkey’s recent diplomatic moves have led to investment deals and currency swaps aimed at bolstering its economy, and Saudi Arabia has lifted an unofficial boycott of Turkish imports, allowing trade between the two countries to expand. to sort out.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Turkey's Erdogan visits Saudi Arabia to ease tensions
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