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Saudi crown prince pays first visit to Turkey since Khashoggi murder

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 Saudi Arabia s de facto ruler will take another step out of his international isolation on Wednesday by paying his first visit to Turkey since the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom s consulate in Istanbul The talks in Ankara between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Turkey s Recep Tayyip Erdogan come a month hellip
Saudi crown prince pays first visit to Turkey since Khashoggi murder

NNN: Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler will take another step out of his international isolation on Wednesday by paying his first visit to Turkey since the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

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The talks in Ankara between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan come a month before US President Joe Biden visits Riyadh for a regional summit focused on the energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Erdogan’s decision to revive ties with one of his biggest rivals is also due in large part to economics and trade.

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Turks’ living standards are collapsing a year before a general election that poses one of the biggest challenges to Erdogan’s fickle two-decade rule.

Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted government released scant details of the gruesome murder that deeply embarrassed the Saudi crown prince.

But now it is boosting investment and central bank assistance from the very countries it opposed on ideological grounds after the Arab Spring riots.

“I think this is probably one of the most significant visits to Ankara by a foreign leader in almost a decade,” said Soner Cagaptay, a Turkey specialist at the Washington Institute.

“Erdogan has to do with Erdogan. It is about winning the election and I think he has decided to swallow his pride.”

The Turkish leader is scheduled to receive the crown prince at his presidential palace and then host him at a private dinner.

No press conference or signing ceremony is planned.

Analysts believe Prince Mohammed will look to see if he can win broader support ahead of a potential new nuclear deal between world powers and the Saudis’ arch-enemy Iran.

“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 a decision by an Istanbul court in April to suspend the trial in absentia of 26 suspects accused of being connected to Khashoggi’s murder and transfer the case to Riyadh.

US intelligence officials determined that Prince Mohammed approved of the plot against Khashoggi, which Riyadh denies.

The court’s decision sparked strong protests from Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.

But it paved the way for a politically sensitive visit by Erdogan to Saudi Arabia just three weeks later.

The kingdom’s state media ended up publishing an image of Erdogan hugging the crown prince that caused a furor in Turkey.

“He gets off the plane and hugs the assassins,” raged Turkey’s main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Erdogan’s likely main rival in the presidential race.

“You should be ashamed.”

Ankara hopes that reconciliation between the two Sunni powers will help shore up the Turkish economy at a crucial stage of Erdogan’s rule.

A Turkish official said the sides will discuss a variety of issues including bank-to-bank cooperation and support for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Lack of confidence Erdogan’s unconventional economic approach has triggered an inflationary spiral that has seen consumer prices almost double in the past year.

Analysts believe the resulting drop in Erdogan’s public approval rating and the depletion of state reserves means the Turkish leader cannot afford to maintain his hostile stance towards petrodollar-rich Gulf states.

Turkey’s troubles 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.

The Saudis and other Arab kingdoms viewed the Brotherhood as an existential threat.

Those rivalries intensified after Turkey tried to break the nearly four-year blockade that the Saudis and their allies imposed on Qatar in 2017.

Analysts believe that Washington is watching this gradual return of regional calm with a nod of approval.

“Encouraged by the United States, this rapprochement is relaxing tensions and strengthening diplomacy throughout the region,” said Gonul Tol, a Turkish scholar at the US-based Middle East Institute.

But Tol questioned whether Prince Mohammed was prepared to fully trust Erdogan.

The crown prince “will not easily forget the attitude adopted by Turkey after the Khashoggi case,” he said.

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