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Saudi crown prince, Erdogan turn page on Khashoggi murder, hail ‘new era’ of cooperation

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Turkey on Wednesday for the first time in years for talks with President Tayyip Erdogan aimed at fully normalizing ties severed after the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The visit marks a step in the de facto Saudi leader’s efforts to restore his image outside the Gulf, and comes as Erdogan seeks financial support that could help ease Turkey’s beleaguered economy ahead of tight elections. for the president.

In April, Erdogan held one-on-one talks with Prince Mohammed in Saudi Arabia after a months-long drive to restore relations between the regional powers, including the dropping of the Turkish trial over the 2018 murder of Khashoggi in Istanbul.

Erdogan said last week that he and Prince Mohammed would discuss “to what much higher level” they can bond during talks in Ankara.

The visit is expected to lead to “a full normalization and recovery from the pre-crisis period,” a senior Turkish official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “A new era is dawning.”

Erdogan welcomed Prince Mohammed to the presidential palace in Ankara with a ceremony and the two shook hands and embraced before being greeted by members of the Turkish cabinet.

In a statement following the talks, the two countries emphasized their determination to usher in a new period of cooperation in bilateral relations.

The Turkish official said the two countries had lifted restrictions on trade, flights and the showing of TV series, as well as ending mutual negative media coverage.

He said, however, that negotiations on a possible currency swap line — which could help restore Turkey’s diminished foreign reserves — are not going “as quickly as desired” and will be discussed privately between Erdogan and Prince Mohammed.

The two countries also discussed improving cooperation in trade and sectors such as defense, energy and tourism, the joint statement said. It added that Ankara invited Saudi investment funds to invest in Turkish startups.

Criticism stopped

Prince Mohammed makes his first tour outside the Gulf region in more than three years, including a visit to Jordan.

Ties between Ankara and Riyadh deteriorated after a Saudi assassin killed and dismembered Khashoggi in 2018 at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. Erdogan blamed the “top levels” of the Saudi government at the time.

The visit, including the welcoming ceremony at the palace, marks a turning point in their relationships. Ankara withdrew all criticism and halted the murder trial in April, with the case being turned over to Riyadh in a move condemned by human rights groups.

Prince Mohammed is leveraging Saudi Arabia’s vast wealth and oil-producing capacity to lure Western leaders and private business partners, in the hopes that a shifting geopolitics and a focus on social and economic reform will challenge criticism of his human rights record. would soften.

US President Joe Biden is set to visit Saudi Arabia in July as Washington grapples with record-high gasoline prices and builds a united front against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

The visit also comes as the Turkish economy is under heavy pressure from a collapsing lira and inflation is rising above 70%. Analysts say Saudi funds and foreign exchange could help Erdogan strengthen support ahead of the June 2023 elections.

The Turkish official said Saudi Arabia may be interested in companies within the Turkish Wealth Fund or elsewhere, or in making investments similar to those made by the United Arab Emirates in recent months.

The leaders will also discuss the possible sale of Turkish armed drones to Riyadh, the person added.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said on Tuesday that Erdogan will hug “the man who ordered the assassination” of Khashoggi, accusing him of trading “the country’s honor” for financial aid. .

Prince Mohammed denies any involvement in the murder.

(REUTERS)

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