Turkey and Saudi Arabia: What does Erdogan and bin Salman’s rapprochement mean for the two countries and the region?

Turkey and Saudi Arabia: What does Erdogan and bin Salman’s rapprochement mean for the two countries and the region?
Turkey and Saudi Arabia: What does Erdogan and bin Salman’s rapprochement mean for the two countries and the region?

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The first official visit by the Saudi crown prince to Turkey after the murder of Khashoggi

On Wednesday, June 22, 2022, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman concluded a short visit to Turkey, his first since the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in his country’s consulate in Istanbul nearly four years ago.

The Saudi Crown Prince’s visit to Turkey comes less than two months after the Turkish president’s visit to Jeddah on April 28, at the invitation of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz.

Riyadh preempted the visit with its decision, Monday, June 20, to lift the travel ban on its citizens to Turkey, after a previous ban related to the Corona pandemic.

The Turkish President received the Saudi Crown Prince upon his arrival in Ankara, and an official reception ceremony was held for the Crown Prince at the Turkish Presidential Complex.

The joint closing statement of the visit stated that “the bilateral relations between the two countries were reviewed from various aspects, and their joint determination to strengthen cooperation in the bilateral relations between the two countries was confirmed in the strongest way, including in the political, economic, military, security and cultural fields.”

The two sides, according to the statement, “expressed their aspiration to cooperate in the fields of energy, including petroleum, refining, petrochemicals, energy efficiency, electricity, and renewable energy.”

The Turkish side called on investment funds operating in the Saudi entrepreneurship environment to “invest in emerging companies in Turkey and establish partnerships with them.”

The visit lasted a few hours, after which the Saudi Crown Prince returned to his country, after a tour of the region that included Egypt and Jordan.

Hatice Cengiz, fiancée of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, criticized the visit, saying, “The political legitimacy he gains through visits to a different country every day does not change the fact that he is a murderer.”

The visit of the Saudi Crown Prince came to turn the page on a major dispute between the two countries that followed the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in his country’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

It was remarkable that the Saudi Crown Prince’s visit to Turkey was short compared to the duration of his visit to Egypt and Jordan.

The goals of the two countries are to improve relations.

The Saudi Crown Prince’s tour in the region comes before an upcoming visit by US President Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia in mid-July 2022, to attend a joint summit called by the Saudi King, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, that includes the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, as well as the Jordanian monarch. The Egyptian President and the Prime Minister of Iraq.

Turkey is witnessing a stifling economic crisis in light of a significant collapse in the value of the Turkish lira, which has exceeded 70 percent.

The Ukraine war deepened Turkey’s economic crisis, with high energy and food prices and low tourism. Turkey is seeking commercial and investment solutions to help it deal with its worsening economic crisis.

Turkey is awaiting important presidential and legislative elections, in mid-June 2023, in which the economy plays an active role in determining the voting trends of several segments of the Turkish people.

All of these seem to be logical reasons for Turkey and its president to improve relations with Saudi Arabia.

On the Saudi side, the crown prince is seeking to end his political isolation and an acceptable return to the international scene, after his image suffered from the consequences of the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

It may have seemed to the Saudis that returning from Turkey might be the best, especially since it is the place where the Saudi journalist was assassinated, and all the leaks that linked Saudi officials to the murder came from it.

While the Turkish president did not directly accuse the crown prince of killing Khashoggi, he said, following the crime, that he knew the order to kill Khashoggi came “from the highest levels of the Saudi government.”

A US intelligence report also concluded that the crown prince “approved an operation to capture or kill Khashoggi.”

In contrast, Mohammed bin Salman denies giving orders or allowing the killing of the Saudi journalist.

In an article in the British newspaper The Times, Roger Boys, the newspaper’s diplomatic editor and columnist, says that “Mohammed bin Salman appears to have bought his freedom”, and what enabled him to do so is that “Turkey’s economy is in disarray.”

Boys adds that Erdogan’s deal with Mohammed bin Salman “could help him enhance his political survival chances.” This means “obtaining Saudi funding to support the central bank’s coffers.”

The writer believes that increased Saudi investment “will restore some popular confidence in the economy,” and that one area of ​​particular interest to the Saudis “is Turkey’s development and successful marketing of drones.”

Thanks to its military industry, especially drones, Turkey has proven a great ability to turn the balance of power in various conflicts. Thanks to the Turkish intervention in Libya and its drones, the Libyan general, Khalifa Haftar, was forced to retreat militarily after his forces were at the gates of the capital, Tripoli.

Also, in 2002, Turkish drones managed to thwart a Syrian armored attack on Idlib.

Turkish military support, especially its drones, also helped Azerbaijan defeat the Armenian ground forces and impose its control over disputed areas.

The Turkish marches used by Ukraine also showed efficiency in targeting and stopping the advance of Russian forces, especially at the beginning of the war.

In light of the targeting of the Kingdom by the Houthis, it seems logical that the Kingdom is interested in acquiring the Turkish drones, which may help it stop the attacks it is exposed to and secure its vital facilities.

Does improving relations affect the countries of the region?

The improvement in Turkish-Saudi relations came after a similar improvement in Turkish-Emirati relations, and another relative improvement in relations between Ankara and Cairo.

On the Saudi side, Riyadh was able to restore relations with Doha and unify the Gulf ranks after a stormy Gulf crisis. There is also frequent talk about Baghdad hosting meetings between Saudi officials and their Iranian counterparts.

In a region rife with conflicts and tensions, some are counting on the improvement of relations between two regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which could have a positive impact on the countries of the entire region.

Observers believe that in light of fears of a global economic recession, and the United States’ preoccupation with the economic, technical and political rise of China, and the consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the United States’ role in the Middle East may diminish, which may contribute to increasing the influence of other countries seeking to fill the vacuum.

They add that it is in the interest of all countries in the region to cooperate with each other rather than conflict.

  • What does the rapprochement of Erdogan and bin Salman mean for the two countries and the region?
  • Does Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Turkey end his international isolation?
  • Was Erdogan forced to improve relations as a result of the economic conditions in his country?
  • Will the consolidation of relations between Saudi Arabia and Turkey positively affect the countries of the region?

We will discuss these and other topics with you on Friday, June 24th.

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The article is in Arabic

Tags: Turkey Saudi Arabia Erdogan bin Salmans rapprochement countries region

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