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

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Reuters)

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will visit Turkey next week, a Turkish official said on Friday, as Ankara and Riyadh mend a bitter feud after the 2018 assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.
It is Prince Mohammed’s first visit to Turkey since the brutal assassination of Khashoggi, who has become critical of Saudi Arabia, inside the kingdom’s consulate, which shocked the world and dealt a severe blow to ties between regional rivals.
The kingdom’s de facto ruler is due to visit the capital Ankara on June 22, but details of the trip will be announced “over the weekend”, a senior Turkish official told AFP.
The two countries will sign several agreements during their trip, as Turkey looks to non-Western partners for financial support as inflation soars.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had already made his late April visit to Saudi Arabia since the assassination, where he met the prince before traveling to Mecca.
Saudi agents killed and dismembered Khashoggi, who was writing for the Washington Post, in October 2018. His remains were never found.
Turkey angered Saudi Arabia by vigorously pursuing the case at the time, opening an investigation and informing international media of the lurid details of the murder.
Erdogan previously said that the “highest levels” of the Saudi government ordered the assassination, although he never directly blamed the crown prince.
But with ties mending, an Istanbul court suspended the trial in absentia of 26 Saudi suspects linked to Khashoggi’s 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 Khashoggi’s assassination.
Saudi Arabia responded at the time with an unofficial boycott of Turkish imports, putting pressure on Turkey’s economy.
Turkish exporters have complained that their products have been stuck in Saudi customs for longer than necessary.
Now, with inflation reaching 73.5 percent in May and a cost-of-living crisis a year before the presidential election, Erdogan needs the support of the Gulf countries, experts say.
“Turkey’s main concern would be getting Saudi funding to replenish central bank coffers that are dangerously low,” Asli Aydintasbas, a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, told AFP.
The Turkish lira lost 44% of its value against the dollar in 2021 as the central bank injected billions of dollars to support the currency.
Over the past 18 months, Turkey has also sought to re-establish 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 like a thing of the past, with US President Joe Biden heading to the Middle East next month and an expected stop in Saudi Arabia where the two men will meet. .
French President Emmanuel Macron had already met with Prince Mohammed in December during a visit to the kingdom.

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