Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler will on Wednesday take another step out of his international isolation by paying his first visit to Turkey since the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.
The talks in Ankara between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan come one month before US President Joe Biden visits Riyadh for a regional summit focused on the energy crunch caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Turks’ living standards are imploding one year before a general election that poses one of the biggest challenges of Erdogan’s mercurial two-decade rule.
But it is now drumming up investment and central bank assistance from the very countries it opposed on ideological grounds in the wake of the Arab Spring revolts.
“Erdogan is all about Erdogan. He’s all about winning elections and I think he has decided to kind of swallow his pride.”
No press conference or signing ceremony is planned.
“There is increased confidence (in Riyadh) that Ankara could be more useful in the current geopolitical environment,” the Eurasia Group said in a research note.
Turkey’s rapprochement with the Saudis began with an Istanbul court decision in April to break off the trial in absentia of 26 suspects accused of links to Khashoggi’s killing and to transfer the case to Riyadh.
The court’s decision drew strong protests from Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz.
The kingdom’s state media ended up releasing a picture of Erdogan hugging the crown prince that created a furore in Turkey.
“You should be ashamed.”
A Turkish official said the sides will discuss a range of issues that include cooperation between banks and support for small and medium-size businesses.
Erdogan’s unconventional economic approach has set off an inflationary spiral that has seen consumer prices almost double in the past year.
Turkey’s problems with the Saudis began when Ankara refused to accept Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood from power in Cairo in 2013.
Those rivalries intensified after Turkey tried to break the nearly four-year blockade the Saudis and their allies imposed on Qatar in 2017.
“Encouraged by the United States, this rapprochement is relaxing tensions and building diplomacy across the region,” said the US-based Middle East Institute’s Turkish scholar Gonul Tol.
The crown prince “will not easily forget the attitude adopted by Turkey after the Khashoggi affair,” she said.
Originally published as Saudi crown prince pays first visit to Turkey since Khashoggi murder