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Erdogan to visit Riyadh for first trip since Khashoggi killed in Istanbul consulate

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, prior to their meeting in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, on July, 23, 2017. (Presidency Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, prior to their meeting in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, on July, 23, 2017. (Presidency Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)

ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will fly to Saudi Arabia on Thursday, an official tells AFP, in his first visit since Riyadh critic Jamal Khashoggi’s killing in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in 2018.

The two-day trip comes after an Istanbul court this month ruled to halt the trial in absentia of 26 Saudi suspects linked to the gruesome killing, transferring the case to Saudi Arabia.

The 59-year-old journalist was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, in a grisly murder that shocked the world.

Turkey infuriated Riyadh by pressing ahead with an investigation into the murder, which Erdogan said was ordered at the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.

Ties between the two Sunni regional powers sharply deteriorated and Saudi Arabia unofficially tried to put pressure on Turkey’s economy and boycott key Turkish imports.

The Istanbul trial was suspended during a new spell of economic turmoil in Turkey, which has suffered from soaring inflation and a spell of winter street protests that hurt Erdogan’s popularity ahead of a general election next year.

Turkey is now drumming up financial support from energy-rich Gulf countries with which it has been at odds in the decade following the Arab Spring revolts.

Erdogan has already tried to improve ties with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which has agreed a new investment package for Turkey.

A Turkish official tells AFP that Erdogan isn’t expected to make any formal announcement during his trip to Riyadh.

Erdogan is due to meet Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, says the official, adding that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is likely to be in the delegation attending the talks.

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