Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler will on Wednesday take another step towards breaking his international isolation by paying his first visit to Turkey since the murder in 2018 of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.
The talks in Ankara between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan come one month before a visit to Riyadh by US president Joe Biden, for a regional summit focused on the energy crunch caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Erdogan’s decision to revive ties with one of his biggest rivals is also driven in large part by economics and trade.
Turks’ living standards are imploding one year before a general election that poses one of the biggest challenges of Erdogan’s mercurial two-decade rule.
After Khashoggi’s death, Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted government released drip-by-drip details of the gruesome murder that deeply embarrassed the Saudi crown prince.
But it is now drumming up investment and central bank assistance from the very countries it opposed on ideological grounds in the wake of the Arab Spring revolts.
“I think this is probably one of the most significant visits to Ankara by a foreign leader in almost a decade,” said the Washington Institute’s Turkey specialist Soner Cagaptay.
“Erdogan is all about Erdogan. He’s all about winning elections and I think he has decided to kind of swallow his pride.”
Cagaptay said Prince Mohammed is also trying to see whether he can win broader backing ahead of a possible new nuclear agreement between world powers and the Saudis’ arch-nemesis Iran.
“I think the Saudis are hedging their bets,” Cagaptay said.