Home Consulate Saudi crown prince visits Turkey as countries normalize relations

Saudi crown prince visits Turkey as countries normalize relations

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is due to arrive in Ankara on Wednesday, making his first visit to Turkey as the two regional heavyweights continue efforts to restore ties following the assassination of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

The Crown Prince will meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the final leg of a Middle East tour that has also taken him to Egypt and Jordan. His visit comes ahead of US President Joe Biden’s trip to the region next month.

Erdogan said the talks with the prince, who is commonly referred to by his initials MBS, would focus on advancing Turkish-Saudi relations to a “much higher degree”. Erdogan traveled to Saudi Arabia in April, making his first visit to the kingdom since 2017, a year before the horrific killing of Khashoggi by Saudi agents at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

Turkey’s efforts to improve relations with Saudi Arabia come as Turkey faces its worst economic crisis in two decades and tries to attract investment from wealthy Gulf Arab states. Turkey has also taken steps to improve its relations with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Israel.

Talks with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates late last year resulted in investment deals worth $10 billion after years of regional rivalry.

Saudi Arabia, for its part, is trying to expand its alliances at a time when relations between Riyadh and Washington are strained. The crown prince is also seeking to end the Khashoggi murder scandal which has damaged his reputation.

Read more: Here’s why the US didn’t sanction Mohammed bin Salman for his role in the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi

Turkey had opened a trial in absentia against 26 Saudis suspected of Khashoggi’s murder, but the court decided earlier this year to stop the proceedings and transfer the case to Saudi Arabia, paving the way for the countries to come together .

Khashoggi’s killing had sparked global outrage and pressured the prince, who allegedly approved the operation to kill or capture Khashoggi, according to an assessment by US intelligence. The prince denied any knowledge of the operation which was carried out by agents who worked directly for him.

Without ever naming Prince Mohammed, Erdogan said the operation that killed Khashoggi was ordered by the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.

Khashoggi had entered the consulate in October 2018 by appointment to obtain papers allowing him to marry his Turkish fiancée, who was waiting for him outside. He never emerged and his body was never found.

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