Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Saudi Crown Prince, Erdogan meets in Turkey with full normalization on the horizon


  • Ankara halts Khashoggi’s trial to cement ties
  • An official says talks are going slowly over a potential foreign exchange swap line
  • Erdogan faces tough elections with economic tension

ANKARA (Reuters) – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Turkey for the first time in years on Wednesday for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan aimed at fully normalizing ties that were severed after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The visit marks a step in the de facto Saudi leader’s efforts to rehabilitate his image outside the Gulf region, and comes as Erdogan seeks financial support that could help ease Turkey’s embattled economy ahead of a tight presidential election.

In April, Erdogan held face-to-face talks with Prince Mohammed in Saudi Arabia after a months-long campaign to repair ties between regional powers, including dropping the Turkish trial over the 2018 Khashoggi murder in Istanbul.

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Erdogan said last week that he and Prince Mohammed would discuss relations during talks in Ankara “to any much higher level.” Read more

A senior Turkish official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity, that the visit was expected to achieve “full normalization and the restoration of the pre-crisis period”. “A new era will begin.”

Erdogan received Prince Mohammed at the presidential palace in Ankara with a ceremony, shook hands and embraced, before being received by members of the Turkish Cabinet.

In a statement after the talks, the two countries affirmed their intention to enter into a new period of cooperation in bilateral relations. Read more

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The Turkish official said the two countries had lifted restrictions on trade, flights and the viewing of TV series, with mutual negative media coverage halting.

However, he said negotiations on a potential currency swap line – which could help restore Turkey’s dwindling foreign reserves – were not moving “at the required speed” and would be discussed privately between Erdogan and Prince Mohammed.

The joint statement said the two countries also discussed improving cooperation in trade and sectors such as defense, energy, tourism and others. She added that Ankara had invited Saudi investment funds to invest in Turkish startups.

stop criticism

Prince Mohammed is on his first trip outside the Gulf region in more than three years, including a visit to Jordan. Read more

Relations between Ankara and Riyadh took a turn for the worse after a Saudi squad killed and dismembered Khashoggi in 2018 at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. Erdogan at the time blamed “the highest levels” of the Saudi government.

The visit, including the welcome party at the palace, marked a shift in their relations. Ankara halted all criticism and halted the murder trial in April, referring the case to Riyadh in a move condemned by human rights groups.

Prince Mohammed is taking advantage of Saudi Arabia’s vast wealth and oil-producing capacity to lure Western leaders and private business partners, hoping that changing geopolitics and focusing on social and economic reforms will mitigate criticism of his human rights record.

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US President Joe Biden is set to visit Saudi Arabia in July, as Washington grapples with record-high gasoline prices and is building a united front against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

The visit also comes at a time when the Turkish economy is under severe strain due to the slump in the lira and inflation rising to more than 70%. Analysts say Saudi money and foreign currency could help Erdogan garner support ahead of elections by June 2023.

The Turkish official said Saudi Arabia may be interested in companies within the Turkish wealth fund or elsewhere, or in making investments similar to those made by the United Arab Emirates in recent months.

The source added that the leaders would also discuss the possibility of selling Turkish armed drones to Riyadh.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, said on Tuesday that Erdogan would “embrace the man who ordered the killing” of Khashoggi and accused him of bartering “the country’s honor” for financial aid.

Prince Mohammed denies any connection to the murder.

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Additional reporting by Aziz Al-Yaqoubi in Riyadh and Darren Butler in Istanbul. Editing by Jonathan Spicer, Angus McSwan and Dibba Babington

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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