ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is scheduled to arrive in Ankara on Wednesday, making his first visit to Turkey as the two regional heavyweights press ahead with efforts to repair ties following the slaying of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.
The crown prince will meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the last leg of a Middle East tour 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, who is commonly referred to by his initials MBS, would focus on advancing Turkish-Saudi relations to a “much higher degree.” Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia in April, paying his first visit to the kingdom since 2017, a year before the gruesome killing of Khashoggi by Saudi agents in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
Turkey’s efforts to improve ties with Saudi Arabia comes as Turkey faces its worst economic crisis in two decades and is trying to draw investments from wealthy Gulf Arab states. Turkey has also taken steps to improve relations with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Israel.
Talks with the UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan late last year led to investment deals worth $10 billion after years of regional rivalry.
Saudi Arabia for its part, has been trying to broaden its alliances at a time when relations between Riyadh and Washington are strained. The crown prince also seeks to put an end to the scandal over Khashoggi’s killing that damaged his reputation.
Turkey had opened a trial in absentia against 26 Saudis suspected in Khashoggi’s killing, but the court earlier this year ruled to halt the proceedings and transfer the case to Saudi Arabia, paving the way for the countries’ rapprochement.
The killing of Khashoggi had sparked global outrage and put pressure on the prince, who was said to have approved the operation to kill or capture Khashoggi, according to a US intelligence assessment. The prince has denied any knowledge of the operation that was carried out by agents who worked directly for him.
While never naming Prince Mohammed, Erdogan said the operation that killed Khashoggi was ordered by the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.
Khashoggi had entered the consulate in October 2018 by appointment to obtain papers to allow him to wed his Turkish fiancée, who waited for him outside. He never emerged and his body was never found.