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Unofficial but effective Saudis boycott hits Turkey

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Hind Al Soulia – Riyadh – Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (right) meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Riyadh in February 2017 (AFP)

RIYADH Without making it official by a declared official decision, Saudi Arabia has managed to deal a direct and hard blow to Turkey through a broad boycott of Turkish products, in response to the many derogatory statements made by Turkish officials towards the kingdom whether in the context of the Jamal Khashoggi affair or in political campaigns directed against the Saudi role in regional issues. This role seems to have been frowned upon by the Turks who sought to undermine it but failed.

The boycott call started on social media and spread very quickly to become the Saudis’ trending headline on online platforms. The call then became reality when local officials from the trade and industry sectors urged citizens to boycott any products that came from Turkey or were branded as being made in Turkey. This move angered Turkish businessmen in Turkey and turned into a pressure card on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Our entrepreneurs in the Middle East suffered an estimated loss of at least $ 3 billion last year, due to anti-Turkish sentiments that have emerged there, Turkish union leader Medhat Yeni Kun told Turkish opposition. entrepreneurs. Cumhuriyet newspaper.

Ajlan al-Ajlan, chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Chamber of Commerce in Riyadh, launched a boycott campaign based on three Nos: no investment, no imports and no tourism. As citizens and businessmen, we will have nothing to do with anything Turkish, Ajlan said.

He called on his fellow citizens to stop dealing with the Turks because they continue to insult the Saudi leadership.

Analysts believe there is little the Turkish president can do about the Saudi position because the issue has taken the form of a spontaneous popular boycott for which the Saudi leadership cannot be blamed. The Saudi authorities have not even jumped at the opportunity to launch a systematic media campaign against Turkey and Erdogan, as the latter had done against Saudi Arabia in the Khashoggi affair, nor to seek mediators to intervene. in the matter. By opting for official neutrality in the whole matter of boycotting Turkish products, the Saudi authorities risk avoiding all the controversy that accompanied the decision to boycott Qatar.

Saudi official silence also puts Erdogan in a difficult position, as he is accused in Turkey of causing a new crisis that will further affect the exhausted Turkish economy and open the door to intractable hardship for Turkish businessmen. who have benefited enormously from the opening. on business opportunities in the Arabian Gulf in recent years.

What further compounds the crisis is that the popular boycott did not stop at the products Turkish companies supply to Saudi Arabia, but broadened to include imports of international branded products made in Turkey. , which means that the boycott will have an effect on the company. of those international companies that had invested in Turkey and could push them to move their investments elsewhere.

A British media report revealed that the Turkish economy had been severely affected by the unofficial Saudi embargo on Turkish products, indicating that fashionable global retailers were also affected by the affair.

The Financial Times said Spanish clothing company Mango was looking for an alternative to Ankara, given that its products are made in Turkey and are directly impacted by fluctuations in demand and competition between Ankara and Riyadh.

The newspaper reports that the Saudi ban on Turkish products has hit global fashion brands such as Mango and Zara, the latest sign of the growing rivalry between the two regional powers.

A Mango employee explained that Saudi Arabia had banned all imports of products made in Turkey. The Spanish company also said that its teams were looking for alternatives to limit the manufacture of its products made in Turkey for the Saudi market.

Mustafa Gultepe, head of the Istanbul Clothing Exporters Federation, revealed that all retailers producing in Turkey and exporting to Saudi Arabia are affected by the move.

Turkish exporters have complained that their products suffered long delays at Saudi customs over the past month.

Turkish companies see these issues as an attempt by Saudi Arabia and its close ally the Emirates to punish Ankara for its destabilizing interference in the Arab world.

Turkey’s relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the two largest economies in the Middle East, have grown more strained as Riyadh and Abu Dhabi accused Erdogan of interfering in Arab affairs and supporting the radical Islamist groups, as well as to interfere in Libya and support militant armed groups there.

A worker in Ankara dust off a part of a mannequin in a factory in Koray Vitrin Mankenleri, which exports to the Arab region. (REUTERS)

Erdogan fears that the tacit Saudi boycott could turn into a comprehensive embargo that could spill over from Saudi Arabia and extend to other Gulf and Arab countries that choose to stand alongside Saudi Arabia, which has a strong network of investments, financing and aid most Arab countries. The risk for Turkey is that the Saudi silent boycott will turn into a more comprehensive Arab boycott model, especially since this model spares states and official bodies any political embarrassment that accompanies an official embargo.

Gulf affairs watchers point out that Erdogan erred in assessing Saudi Arabia’s power and influence in recent years as he expected to blackmail it with political and media pressure to serve his economy, stressing that the Saudis, who avoid making statements and fight media battles, know when to strike the blow that will repair the damage done to them and deliver the necessary message to their adversaries.

The Turkish president is betting on his popularity within Salafist circles in Sururi in Saudi Arabia, which are currently in hibernation and are waiting for the right time to jump into power, but analysts say the new Saudi leadership can halt all maneuvering in manufacturing Erdogans. crises or leaks of confidential information, especially since it has been able to counter other blackmail plots before.

Saudi public and official anger against Turkey was not caused by the Khashoggi affair and the Turkish media attacks on the kingdom and its rulers that followed, but it began with the Erdogans’ efforts to strike the role of Saudi Arabia as the main Sunni power in the Middle East. and deprive it of its symbolic importance and influence through its alliance with the Iranian sectarian project, and through Sunni proxies such as Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood affiliates in the region.

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