Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visits Turkey for the first time in years on Wednesday for talks with President Tayyip Erdogan with the aim of fully normalize the ties that were severed after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The visit marks a step in Prince Mohammed’s effort to rehabilitate its image beyond the Gulf, and comes at a time when Erdogan is seeking financial support that could help ease Turkey’s troubled economy ahead of tight presidential elections.
In April, Erdogan held talks alone with Prince Mohammed in Saudi Arabia after a months-long campaign to mend relations between the regional powers, including dropping the Turkish trial for Khashoggi’s 2018 murder in Istanbul.
Erdogan said last week that he and Riyadh’s de facto leader would discuss “to what much higher level” they can wear the ties during talks in Ankara.
The visit is expected to bring “a complete normalization and restoration of the pre-crisis period”a senior Turkish official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “A new era will begin.”
Erdogan was scheduled to receive the crown prince at the presidential palace for talks in the afternoon. No public statement is planned.
The Turkish official said the two countries had lifted restrictions on trade, flights and the screening of TV series, and negative media coverage of each other had also stopped.
Agreements on energy, economy and security were to be signed during the visit, while a plan for Saudi funds to enter Turkey’s capital markets was also being worked out, the official said.
However, he said negotiations on a possible currency swap line – which could help restore Turkey’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves – were not progressing “as fast as desired” and will be discussed privately between Erdogan and Prince Mohammed. .
Prince Mohammed is on his first tour outside the Gulf region in more than three years, including a visit to Jordan.
Ties between Ankara and Riyadh worsened after a Saudi hitman squad killed and dismembered Khashoggi in 2018 at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. Erdogan then blamed it on the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.
The visit, including the welcoming ceremony at the palace, marks a turning point in their relations. Ankara stopped criticizing and halted his murder trial in April, transferring the case to Riyadh in a move condemned by rights groups.
Prince Mohammed has been taking advantage of Saudi Arabia’s enormous wealth and oil-producing capacity to attract Western leaders and private business partners, hoping that the shift in geopolitics and focus on social and economic reforms will soften the criticism of its human rights record.
US President Joe Biden will visit Saudi Arabia in July as Washington grapples with record gasoline prices and building a united front against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.
The visit also comes at a time when the Turkish economy is severely affected by the falling lira and inflation exceeding 70%. Saudi funds and foreign currency could help Erdogan shore up support for him ahead of the June 2023 election, according to analysts.
The Turkish official said that Saudi Arabia could be interested in companies in the Turkish Wealth Fund or elsewhere, or in making investments similar to those made by the UAE in recent months.
The leaders will also discuss the possible sale of Turkish armed drones to Riyadh, the person added.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said on Tuesday that Erdogan will “embrace the man who ordered the assassination” of Khashoggi.
Prince Mohamed denies any involvement in the murder.