Erdoğan to visit Saudi in February amid thaw in Ankara-Riyadh relations

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday said he was set to travel to Saudi Arabia next month, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported, marking his first diplomatic visit to the Kingdom since the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

"I will pay a visit to Saudi Arabia in February," on the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Turkish president told the press following a parliamentary meeting.

In recent months, Turkey has moved towards reconciliation with a number of countries in the Middle East and Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, as part of efforts to break its regional isolation.

Ankara-Riyadh relations had soured over the October 2018 killing and of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Khashoggi at the Kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.

An outspoken critic of bin Salman, Khashoggi is believed to have been killed by a team of Saudi assassins after he walked into the building. The journalists remains have never been found, and Erdoğan at the time blamed senior Saudi officials for the crime, but stopped short of naming the crown prince.

Trade between the countries has dropped by 98 percent since 2020, when the Kingdom began an unofficial boycott of Turkish goods, citing what they called hostility from Ankara.

The two countries have also diverged over which rebel groups to support in Syria's over decade-long civil war.

Turkey last year began a trial for 20 suspects in Khashoggi’s murder, including the former deputy chief of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service, Ahmed al-Asiri, and ex-royal adviser Saud al-Qahtani, and indicted six more suspects during the same year.  

However, the suspects are being tried in absentia by a Turkish court because Riyadh has refused to extradite the men despite repeated requests by Turkey.

A Saudi court in September of last year overturned the death sentences of five in the murder case following a trial in the kingdom. The men were sentenced to 20 years in prison instead.

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