Ankara: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is scheduled to arrive in Ankara on Wednesday, making his first visit to Turkey as the two regional heavyweights press ahead with efforts to repair ties following the slaying of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. Turkey is the final leg of a Middle East tour that took the Saudi crown prince to Egypt and Jordan.
The crown prince will meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the last leg of a Middle East tour that also took him to Egypt and Jordan. His visit comes before US President Joe Biden’s trip to the region next month.
Erdogan said talks with the prince, would focus on advancing Turkish-Saudi relations to a “much higher degree”. Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia in April, paying his first visit to the kingdom since 2017, a year before the killing of Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
Turkey’s efforts to improve ties with Saudi Arabia comes as Turkey faces its worst economic crisis in two decades and is trying to draw investments from wealthy Gulf Arab states. Turkey has also taken steps to improve relations with the UAE, Egypt and Israel.
Talks with the UAE late last year led to investment deals worth $10 billion.
Turkish companies have complained of an unofficial boycott of the country’s goods after shipments to Saudi Arabia slumped in late 2020. Last year, Turkish exports were just over $200 million, down from around $3.2 billion in 2019, according to official Turkish data.
As Erdogan steers the economy away from reliance on the foreign inflows to focus more on export income, he wants that trade back.
Saudi Arabia for its part, has been trying to broaden its alliances at a time when relations between Riyadh and Washington are strained. The crown prince also seeks to put an end to the scandal over Khashoggi’s killing.
Turkey had opened a trial in absentia against 26 Saudis suspected in Khashoggi’s killing, but the court earlier this year ruled to halt the proceedings and transfer the case to Saudi Arabia, paving the way for the countries’ rapprochement.