ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will arrive in Ankara on Wednesday, his first visit to Turkey, as the two regional heavyweights continue to repair ties following the assassination of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.
The Crown Prince will meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the final leg of a Middle East journey that also took him to Egypt and Jordan. His visit comes before US President Joe Biden’s trip to the region next month.
Erdogan said talks with the prince, commonly referred to by his initials MBS, would aim to improve Turkish-Saudi relations to a “much higher degree”. Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia in April, making his first visit to the kingdom since 2017, a year before Khashoggi’s horrific murder by Saudi agents at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
Turkey’s efforts to improve ties with Saudi Arabia come as Turkey faces its worst economic crisis in two decades and seeks to attract investment from wealthy Arab Gulf states. Turkey has also taken steps to improve relations with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Israel.
Talks with UAE Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan late last year led to $10 billion in investment deals after years of regional rivalry.
Saudi Arabia, for its part, has sought to broaden its alliances at a time when relations between Riyadh and Washington are tense. The crown prince also wants to end the scandal over the murder of Khashoggi that has damaged his reputation.
Turkey had started a trial in absentia against 26 Saudis suspected of Khashoggi’s murder, but the court earlier this year ordered to drop the proceedings and hand the case over to Saudi Arabia, paving the way for rapprochement between the two. to land.
Khashoggi’s murder had sparked global outrage and put pressure on the prince, who, according to a US intelligence assessment, would have approved the operation to kill or capture Khashoggi. The prince has denied having any knowledge of the operation carried out by agents who worked directly for him.
Though he never mentioned Prince Mohammed, Erdogan said the operation that killed Khashoggi was ordered by the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.
Khashoggi had entered the consulate by appointment in October 2018 to obtain papers allowing him to marry his Turkish fiancée, who was waiting for him outside. He never got out and his body was never found.