Turkey, Saudi Prince Bin Salman in Ankara on Wednesday: post-Khashoggi tensions overcome

The prince heir to the throne of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) is expected in Turkey on June 22, where he will meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as further confirmation of the fact that the rift between the two countries is definitively recomposed. The news was reported by the news agency France Presswhich reports what an Ankara official has learned, according to which the meeting place has not yet been defined and the details will be announced next weekend.

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This is the first visit to Turkey by Saudi officials after Erdogan met the Saudi King Salman in Jeddah at the end of April, but above all the prince heir to the Saudi throne MBS with whom there was the long-awaited handshake after almost 4 years of tensions followed the murder of journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi. A visit served to review relations between the two countries in various areas and lay the foundations for agreements that will probably be signed on the occasion of MBS’s next visit to Turkey.

The process

The visit of the Turkish president took place 3 weeks after the transfer of the trial of 26 Saudi officials, accused by Ankara of killing the journalist, from a court in Istanbul to the Saudi capital Riyadh. Following the journalist’s murder, Erdogan did not spare the accusations against the “highest echelons of the monarchy”, indicated as the real instigator of the murder. He was charged with an American intelligence report confirming MBS’s responsibility as the instigator of the murder. Ankara shared the evidence gathered with the US and the UN, not sparing a media pillory for MBS who broke off relations with Erdogan. A battle in which Turkey, however, was left isolated. Beyond mere declarations by the EU, repeated accusations and condemnations by the UN and promises to go all the way by the US, nothing concrete has been done to arrive at a procedural truth and the identification of a culprit. Research in which Ankara was left alone.

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Khashoggi disappeared on 2 October 2018 after crossing the threshold of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone to collect the documents necessary to marry a Turkish woman, Hatice Cengiz. The latter has embarked on a battle for the truth which has however fallen on deaf ears and she has never received full support from the international community. After the request for transfer of the trial, Hatice Cengiz filed an appeal which was rejected.

The rapprochement

The rapprochement process was already underway, also initiated through the mediation of the Emirates, with last November Erdogan mended relations after 12 years of tension. A situation worsened in the past also by the embargo decided in 2017 by the Gulf countries against Qatar, one of Turkey’s closest allies. Removed the embargo on relations between the two countries, the Khashoggi case continued to weigh, but the transfer that puts an end to the process was the signal that MBS was waiting for. The Turkish president faces the worst economic crisis of the past 20 years, with inflation breaking the 70% ceiling last month. A situation that Erdogan has to face in view of the elections of 2023 and that has pushed the Turkish government in the last year to start a normalization process that also involves Egypt and Israel, as well as the Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

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