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

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is expected in Turkey on June 22 for his first official visit to the country, following nine years of estrangement as a result of the Arab Spring and aggravated by the Istanbul murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “God willing, we will see to what level we can raise relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia”Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday, confirming the arrival in Ankara of “MBS”, the de facto leader of the Saudi kingdom.

Act 1 of the reconciliation had taken place at the end of April: President Erdogan had visited Saudi Arabia, where he had discussed the means of “develop” relations between their two countries. Three weeks earlier, Turkish courts had closed the trial for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, columnist for the Washington Post, murdered and dismembered in October 2018 on the premises of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, when he came to collect documents needed for his wedding to his Turkish fiancée. Ankara had returned the cumbersome file to the Saudi authorities, paving the way for rapprochement with Riyadh.

Act 2 will take place on Wednesday: MBS will be received in Ankara by Erdogan at the end of a regional tour that started Monday in Egypt. The program is not yet known, but several agreements are yet to be signed, a senior Turkish official told AFP. “This is one of the most important visits to Ankara in almost a decade”, says Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He recalls that the row between Riyadh and Ankara dates back to 2013, when President Erdogan against Marshal al-Sissi backed deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, a Saudi Arabian hobby. The three-year blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia on Qatar, an ally of Turkey, in 2017, and then the Khashoggi affair the following year, had ended Ankara-Riyadh relations.

“Like a Beggar”

At the time, the Turkish president accused the “highest levels of Saudi government” to order the murder. But less than a year after the presidential elections scheduled for mid-June 2023, and as inflation ravages Turks’ purchasing power, President Erdogan is stepping up initiatives to normalize relations with several regional powers – Saudi Arabia but also Israel and the United States. States Arab Emirates. “Erdogan has somewhat swallowed his pride. He has only one goal in mind: to win the next election.Judge Soner Cagaptay, according to whom the Turkish president, who visited the Emirates in mid-February, said ‘desperate to attract investment from the Gulf’† After two decades at the head of the Turkish state, Erdogan is faced with the fall of the Turkish lira (-44% against the dollar in 2021 and -23% since January 1) and inflation that reached 73 in May. .5% per year, making his re-election uncertain according to polls. “You sent the file back [Khashoggi] to Saudi Arabia for money, like a beggar”outraged the leader of Turkey’s main opposition party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, on Tuesday.

For MBS, this visit marks the end of exile on the part of Westerners: US President Joe Biden, who will visit the Middle East for the first time since his arrival at the White House in mid-July, has planned a move in Saudi Arabia Arabia to meet the crown prince there. “For Saudi Arabia, one of the main drivers is to create a Sunni front, including 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 rapprochement does not solve the major economic problems” from Turkey. Moreover, MBS will not soon forget Turkey’s attitude during the Khashoggi affair’the researcher continues. “At this time, MBS was trying to promote a reformer image in the country and internationally. However, by exposing the Khashoggi affair, Turkey has greatly damaged this image.

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