The Saudi heir to the throne will visit Turkey for the first time since Hashoghi’s assassination

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Reuters)

ISTANBUL: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will visit Turkey next week, a Turkish official said on Friday as Ankara and Riyadh heal the bitter rift following the 2018 assassination of journalist Jamal Hashoghi in Istanbul.
This is Prince Mohammed’s first visit to Turkey since the brutal assassination of a Saudi insider who became a critic of Kashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate, which shocked the world and dealt a blow to regional rivals.
The de facto ruler of the kingdom is expected to visit the capital, Ankara, on June 22nd, but details of the trip will be announced “over the weekend”, a senior Turkish official told AFP.
The two countries will sign several agreements during his trip, as Turkey seeks financial support from non-Western partners as rising inflation bites.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had already visited Saudi Arabia in late April after the assassination, where he met with the prince before traveling to Mecca.
Saudi agents killed and dismembered Kashoggi, who wrote for the Washington Post, in October 2018. His remains were never found.
Turkey has angered Saudi Arabia by vigorously following the case at the time, launching an investigation and informing the international media of the ominous details of the killing.
Earlier, Erdogan said the “highest levels” of the Saudi government had ordered the assassination, although he had never directly blamed the heir to the throne.
But as ties improve, an Istanbul court suspended the trial of 26 Saudi suspects linked to Hashoghi’s death in absentia, transferring the case to Riyadh in April.
Turkey had already strained relations with Saudi Arabia over its support for Qatar during Riyadh’s 2017 blockade of the Gulf state, but relations were frozen for more than three years after Hashoghi’s assassination.
At the time, Saudi Arabia responded with an unofficial boycott of Turkish imports, putting pressure on the Turkish economy.
Turkish exporters have complained that their goods have been stuck in Saudi customs for longer than necessary.
Now with inflation rising to 73.5 per cent in May and the crisis in the cost of living a year before the presidential election, Erdogan needs support from the Gulf countries, experts say.
“Turkey’s main concern would be to obtain Saudi funding to replenish the central bank’s treasury, which is dangerously low,” Asli Aydintasbas, an aide to the European Council on Foreign Relations, told AFP.
The Turkish lira lost 44 percent of its value against the dollar in 2021, while the central bank pumped billions of dollars to support the currency.
Over the past 18 months, Turkey has also sought to re-establish relations with powerful countries in the region, such as Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
For the Saudi heir to the throne, the status of pariah in the West after Hashoghi seems to be a thing of the past, with US President Joe Biden heading to the Middle East next month and an expected stop in Saudi Arabia, where the two men will meet.
French President Emmanuel Macron already met with Prince Mohammed in December during a visit to the kingdom.

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