Erdogan visits Saudi to mend ties


Istanbul (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will travel to Saudi Arabia on Thursday, marking the culmination of a months-long effort to repair ties with Riyadh that included Ankara dropping a legal case on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

Erdogan’s office said he will discuss Ankara’s relations with the kingdom in meetings during the two-day trip, as well as ways to increase cooperation. Analysts and officials say Saudi funding could help boost Turkey’s ailing economy.

Ties between the two countries were strained after Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. Erdogan had accused the “highest levels” of the Saudi government of giving the orders – but Ankara has since sharply softened its tone.

Opening the way to the visit, a Turkish court earlier this month halted the trial of Saudi suspects over the killing and transferred it to Saudi Arabia in a decision that was backed by the government and drew condemnation from rights groups.

Reuters reported Erdogan’s planned visit earlier this week. 

It marks a dramatic bilateral policy shift and perhaps the biggest step in Ankara’s effort since 2020 to repair its strained ties with regional powers including the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

After the war of words over Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia in 2020 imposed an unofficial boycott on Turkish imports.

Turkey’s economy has been ailing for years and a lira crisis erupted in late 2021 due to an unorthodox monetary policy backed by Erdogan, sending inflation soaring above 60%.

With Erdogan facing a tough election by mid-2023, Ankara has sought to alleviate the economic strains via international rapprochements.

In addition to existing currency swap deals with China, Qatar, South Korea and the UAE – worth $28 billion total – Ankara could seek a deal with Riyadh. It also eyes investments and contracts similar to those inked with Abu Dhabi, officials say.

“Erdogan is pragmatic and a political animal, and his polls may not hold up for a year unless he can boost jobs,” said a Western diplomat.

“So he is partly seeking deals and funding in Saudi, and a swap line for perhaps $10-$20 billion would be something worthwhile,” the person said.

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