Home World The President of Turkey is courting the Saudi Crown Prince

The President of Turkey is courting the Saudi Crown Prince


The first requirement was to sweep the murder case under the rug. On April 7, a court in Istanbul suspended the trial of 26 Saudis accused of killing Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Hashoghi in Turkey in 2018, and passed the materials back to Saudi Arabia. Prince Muhammad bin Salman, the Crown Prince and de facto ruler who is widely accused of ordering the assassination, should never have been held accountable for the crime personally – in Turkey, let alone in Saudi Arabia.

Any hope, already faint, that the people who did it will be prosecuted in any jurisdiction is gone. Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which have quarreled over the case, have an open path to calm down. On April 28, Erdogan met with Prince Muhammad in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. The president hugged the smiling prince tightly.

Diplomatically isolated, deprived of hard currency, deprived of foreign investment and income from tourism, Turkey is conducting a regional offensive. Mr Erdogan has improved the fight against Israel, whose president Isaac Herzag visited Turkey in March, and with the United Arab Emirates, whose de facto leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan had refused $ 10 funding until last autumn. billion to attract investment to Turkey.

The dispute between Turkey and Greece over maritime claims in the eastern Mediterranean has subsided, although Greece has recently complained that Turkish fighter jets continue to violate its airspace. Erdogan also hopes to restore friendly relations with Egypt and its leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, with whom he quarreled after a coup in 2013 that ousted Turkish President Islamist Mohammad Morsi. Even rapprochement with Turkey’s old enemy, Armenia, may be within reach.

The road to warmth with Saudi Arabia was the hardest. Erdogan wanted to meet with Prince Mohammed during a visit to Qatar last fall, but the plan failed. Earlier this year, he offered a trip to Saudi Arabia. But this did not happen. The stumbling block was the Crown Prince himself, says Ali Bakr of the Ibn Khaldan Center at the University of Qatar. “For MbS it was personal.”

It was difficult for the Crown Prince to forgive Mr Erdogan for his treatment after Hashoji was killed and dismembered by a Saudi terrorist group at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. In the weeks that followed, Mr Erdogan and his government kept Prince Mohammed by the feet until the fire, revealing horrific details of the assassination and believing that the prince was directly responsible. The CIA, which was shown evidence gathered by Turkish intelligence, concluded that this was indeed the case.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey were hardly best friends before that. They clashed because of Turkey’s support for the revolutions that engulfed much of the Arab world in the Arab spring of 2011. The Gulf monarchies, with the exception of Qatar, Turkey’s Islamist ally, have hated Turkey’s embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood, which they consider a terrorist group. When Saudi Arabia imposed an economic blockade on Qatar, Erdogan demonstrated his support for the smaller country by sending troops to a Turkish army base in Doha, Qatar’s capital.

Turkish-Saudi rapprochement now makes sense for both sides. Saudi Arabia has reached an agreement with Qatar, and Mr Erdogan acknowledges that Prince Mohammed is likely to become king, despite global outcry over Hashoghi’s assassination. Across the region, the mood calmed down.

Turkey also has economic reasons to reboot. Its exports to Saudi Arabia fell from nearly $ 3.3 billion in 2019 to $ 265 million last year due to an unannounced Saudi Arabia boycott of its goods. Turkish construction companies, which have earned $ 15 billion in Saudi Arabia since 2010, have been blocked and want to return. Turkey, burdened by a weak currency and rampant inflation, which reached 61% in March, needs an infusion of cash. An oversaturation of new Saudi investments or an exchange agreement with the Central Bank of Turkey will help. If abandoning the case of a circumcised journalist is the price to be paid, so be it.

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