Erdoğan set for Saudi visit in bid for complete regional rapprochement

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is set to visit Saudi Arabia in April, for the first time since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018, after which Ankara-Riyadh relations reached an all-time low.

In a move to complete the regional rapprochement and cement Ankara’s ties, Erdoğan will travel to Riyadh during Muslim’s holy month of Ramadan, following a Turkish court transferral of the Khashoggi case to Saudi Arabia last week, Al-Monitor reported on Monday, citing Turkish media.  

Erdoğan’s visit has not yet been officially confirmed.

Turkey-Saudi relations turned sour in the wake of the Arab Spring in 2011, when Turkey sought to strengthen its role in the region by supporting groups close to the Muslim Brotherhood and calling on Arab regimes to reform, and diplomatic relations took a further nose-dive over the murder of dissident Saudi journalist in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in October 2018.

Ankara blamed the kingdom for the disappearance of the journalist, a critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who went missing in the Kingdom’s consulate building in Istanbul. According to Turkish officials, he was tortured and killed in the consulate with the order of the “highest levels” of the Saudi government, and his body was subsequently carried out. 

On Thursday, a Turkish court has suspended the Khashoggi trial in absentia of 26 Saudi nationals accused in the murder of the Saudi journalist and ruled that the case be transferred to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi economic support could prove essential for Turkey and Erdoğan, Al-Monitor cited Eyüp Ersoy, an academic at Turkey's Ahi Evran University, as saying.

“Saudi capital could be instrumental in subsidising certain staple goods in the period leading up to the elections,” he said.

Erdoğan is suffering a decline in public support ahead of elections slated for June 2023, according to the latest polls. Poor economic performance and allegations of financial mismanagement weighed heavily on support for the government.

In a bid to repair its fractured ties with the regional powers, Turkey also has been exchanging high-level official visits with the United Arab Emirates, that have been embroiled in years of hostility over issues including the future of Libya, Ankara’s support for political Islam and its close ties to the U.A.E.’s regional rival Qatar, likewise as Saudi Arabia.

To solidify a new chapter in relations, the U.A.E.’s de-facto leader, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan visited Turkey in November, announcing a $10 billion fund for investments. In February, Erdoğan paid a visit to the U.A.E., signing 13 cooperation agreements in sectors including defence and trade.

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