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Saudi crown prince to visit Turkey for first time since Khashoggi murder

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will visit Turkey next week, the Turkish president said on Friday, as Ankara and Riyadh heal a bitter rift following the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

It is Prince Mohammed’s first visit to Turkey since the brutal murder of Saudi insider-turned-critic Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s consulate shocked the world and dealt a blow to ties between regional rivals. .

The crown prince will be visiting on Wednesday, we will welcome him at the presidential palace in Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters.

Further details of the kingdom’s de facto ruler’s June 22 trip will be announced over the weekend, a senior Turkish official told AFP.

The two countries will sign several agreements during his trip as Turkey turns to non-Western partners for financial support as soaring inflation bites.

Erdogan had already made his late April visit to Saudi Arabia since the murder, where he had met the prince before traveling to Mecca.

Saudi agents killed and dismembered Khashoggi, who wrote for The Washington Post, in October 2018. His remains have never been found.

Turkey angered Saudi Arabia by vigorously pursuing the case at the time, launching an investigation and telling international media about the grim details of the murder.

Erdogan has previously said the highest levels of the Saudi government ordered the killing, although he never blamed the crown prince directly.

But with ties on the mend, an Istanbul court halted the trial in absentia of 26 Saudi suspects linked to Khashoggis’ death, transferring the case to Riyadh in April.

Turkey already had strained relations with Saudi Arabia over its support for Qatar during the 2017 Riyadh-led blockade of the Gulf state, but relations were frozen for more than three years after Khashoggis’ killing. .

Saudi Arabia responded at the time with an unofficial boycott of Turkish imports, putting pressure on the Turkish economy. Turkish exporters have complained that their goods have been held up at Saudi customs longer than necessary.

Now, with inflation hitting 73.5% in May and a cost of living crisis a year before a presidential election, Erdogan needs the support of Gulf countries, experts say.

Turkey’s main concern would be to obtain Saudi funds to replenish the central bank’s coffers which are dangerously low, Asli Aydintasbas, a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, told AFP. James Dorsey, a senior fellow at the University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute, said both countries needed the visit.

While Turkey is seeking financial investment, Saudi Arabia may be interested in Turkish military technology, and they are both competing for leadership in the region, he said.

The Turkish lira has lost 44% of its value against the dollar in 2021, while the central bank has injected billions of dollars to support the currency. Over the past 18 months, Turkey has also sought to restore relations with powerful countries in the region such as Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

For the Saudi crown prince, pariah status in the West after Khashoggi seems to be a thing of the past with US President Joe Biden heading to the Middle East next month and a planned stopover in Saudi Arabia where the pair will meet.

French President Emmanuel Macron had previously met Prince Mohammed in December during a visit to the kingdom.

Posted in Dawn, June 18, 2022

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