FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses the media after a cabinet meeting in Ankara, Turkey, December 20, 2021. (REUTERS)
On 3 January, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that he will visit Saudi Arabia in February. The announcement was made in a video posted on his official social media accounts.
This will be the first visit by the Turkish leader to the kingdom since the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2018 by agents linked to Mohammed Bin Salman (MbS).
This event strained relations between Ankara and Riyadh. A few weeks after the murder, Erdogan said an investigation by Turkish security agencies had shown that the order to kill Khashoggi was issued from ”the highest levels” of the government of Saudi Arabia. Despite the fact Erdogan did not name MbS, the statement was interpreted as a tacit accusation against the crown prince.
In the months that followed, Turkey accused Riyadh of refusing to cooperate with its investigation into the murder. Erdogan also rejected the claims by Riyadh that Khashoggi was killed by rogue agents, and asked the Saudi authorities to search ”bottom to top” if they genuinely wanted to find those responsible for the murder.
The kingdom reacted angrily to the accusations and imposed an unofficial boycott of Turkish products. It also discouraged its nationals from visiting Turkey.
It is believed that the impact of these economic measures is what has motivated the government of Turkey to mend relations with Riyadh. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Saudi Arabia in May 2021 in a trip that was seen as an attempt to ease the tension between the two countries.
Turkey is currently going through one of its most severe economic crises in recent history. The annual inflation in 2021 rose to 36.1 percent, the worst since 2003, while food prices rose by over 44 percent between January 2021 and December 2021.