By Orhan Coskun
ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan plans to visit Saudi Arabia on Thursday and meet Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, two sources with information on the matter told Reuters, as Ankara tries to mend ties with Riyadh after dropping a legal case on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.
Relations have been tense since a Saudi hit team killed Khashoggi at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in 2018. At the time, Erdogan and his government had accused senior Saudi officials, including Prince Mohammed, of being involved in the murder and of hindering a legal process. Ankara’s comments then, which came amid widespread global outcry, prompted an unofficial Saudi boycott of Turkish products. Ankara has since sharply toned down its rhetoric toward Riyadh, and has gone as far as saying there are no bilateral issues between the two regional powers.
As part of a regional charm offensive launched in 2020 amid growing isolation, Ankara has made overtures to mend ties with several countries, including Egypt, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. It has also approached many Gulf states for economic support as it faces soaring inflation and a surge in energy prices following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
Last month, Riyadh requested that Ankara hand over the case of Khashoggi’s murder, which was ongoing in Turkey. This month, Ankara approved the request, halted the case and sent it to Riyadh. “There will be a meeting with MbS during the visit to Saudi Arabia,” one of the sources, a senior Turkish official, said on condition of anonymity, using the widely known acronym for Prince Mohammed’s name. “Many issues, from economy, investments, regional issues, leaving behind the troubled times in bilateral ties will be discussed.
“It is expected to be an efficient meeting for both sides,” the official said. If realised, the meeting will be the culmination of months of efforts by Ankara to repair ties, as it seeks to alleviate growing economic woes.