Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Saudi Arabia Thursday, in what is his first visit to the Middle Eastern country since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018.
Jeddah, Turkey | Erdogan, whose plane landed in Jeddah, the Saudi kingdom’s second city, is due to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The visit by the Turkish head of state comes at a time when Turkey is facing a serious economic crisis. Turkish anger has seen its value drop 44% against the dollar in 2021, causing inflation to rise to 61.1% one year in March.
This situation has led Erdogan to soften ties with former rival states such as Egypt and Israel, and especially the oil-rich Gulf monarchies including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
A Turkish official told the AFP news agency, on condition and anonymity, that the President of Turkey will not make an official announcement during the visit, which is closed to the press. According to the same source, a meeting is planned with King Salman, who should be attended by the Crown Prince, who holds the reins of power.
The Khashoggi case has cooled relations between the two countries, which have been strained since 2017 by the blockade decreed by Saudi Arabia on Qatar, an ally of Ankara.
Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the US newspaper The Washington Post, was killed and dismembered on October 2, 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, when he went to get the necessary documents for his marriage to his Turkish bride.
On the occasion, the Turkish head of state accused the “highest levels of the Saudi government” of ordering the assassination. The CIA, the US Senate and a UN expert believe that Mohammed bin Salman was “responsible” for the murder. The journalist’s body was never found.
In July 2020, the trial of 26 Saudi citizens was opened in Istanbul, including two relatives of Mohammed bin Salman, accused by Turkey of having murdered Jamal Khashoggi, in the absence of those concerned. Five were sentenced to death, since commuted, and eight were sentenced to between seven and 20 years in prison.
However, in early April, Turkish justice decided to get rid of the Khashoggi case and forward it to the Saudi authorities.
Erdogan’s last visit to Saudi Arabia dates back to 2017, when the Turkish president tried to mediate in the diplomatic conflict between several Gulf countries and Qatar. After the reconciliation between the Gulf States last year, several diplomatic rapprochements took place in the region in a post-pandemic context.
In February, Erdogan made his first official visit to the UAE, months after the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, visited Ankara, with the two countries having expressed their willingness to strengthen economic ties.
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