The Saudi Crown Prince of Ankara, “business as usual” after Khashoggi

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is expected to visit Turkey on Wednesday, June 22, for his first official visit to the country, after nine years of alienation born of the Arab Spring and exacerbated by the assassination in Istanbul of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “If God wills, we will see to what level we can raise the relationship between Turkey and Saudi Arabia”said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday, confirming the arrival in Ankara of “MBS”, the de facto leader of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The first act of reconciliation had taken place in late April: President Erdogan had visited Saudi Arabia, where he had discussed with the Crown Prince how “develop” the relationship between their two countries. Three weeks earlier, Turkish courts had decided to close the trial for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for washington post, killed and dismembered in October 2018 at the premises of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul when he came to collect documents necessary for his marriage to his Turkish fiancée. Ankara had returned the cumbersome case to the Saudi authorities, paving the way for a rapprochement with Riyadh.

Act 2 takes place on Wednesday: MBS is to be received in Ankara by Erdogan at the end of a regional tour, which began in Egypt on Monday. The program is not yet known, but more agreements should be signed, a senior Turkish official told AFP. “This is one of the most important visits to Ankara for almost a decade”, says Soner Cagaptay, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He recalls that the conflict between Riyadh and Ankara dates back to 2013, when President Erdogan had backed Marshal al-Sissi, the ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, a pet in Saudi Arabia. The three-year blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia on Qatar, an ally of Turkey in 2017, and then the Khashoggi case the following year, ended up poisoning the relationship between Ankara and Riyadh.

“Like a beggar”

At the time, the Turkish president was accused “highest levels of the Saudi government” to order the assassination. But less than a year from the presidential election scheduled for mid-June 2023, and while inflation is ravaging the purchasing power of the Turks, President Erdogan is stepping up initiatives to normalize relations with several regional powers – Saudi Arabia, but also Israel and the United Arab Emirates. “Erdogan has swallowed his pride a little. He has only one thing on his mind: to win the next election.Judge Soner Cagaptay, according to whom the Turkish president, who visited the Emirates in mid-February, ‘desperate to attract investment from Gulf’. After two decades at the helm of the Turkish state, Erdogan is facing the fall of the Turkish lira (-44% against the dollar in 2021 and -23% since January 1) and inflation, which has reached 73.5% in one year in May. , which makes his re-election uncertain according to opinion polls. “You returned the file [Khashoggi] to Saudi Arabia for money as a beggar “shook the head of the main Turkish opposition party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, on Tuesday.

For MBS, this visit marks the end of Western exile: US President Joe Biden, who will visit the Middle East in mid-July for the first time since his arrival at the White House, has planned a move in Saudi Arabia. Arabia to meet the Crown Prince there. “For Saudi Arabia, one of the main motivations is to create a Sunni front, which will include Turkey, to counter Iran’s influence in the region.”, analyzes Gönül Tol, director of the Turkey program at the Middle East Institute in Washington. But for her, “this approach will not solve the major economic problems” from Turkey. “Moreover, MBS will not easily forget Turkey’s position during the Khashoggi affair”the researcher continues. “At this point, the MBS sought to promote a reformist image in the country and internationally. But by exposing the Khashoggi affair, Turkey has greatly damaged that image..

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