Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will travel to Saudi Arabia next month, the Turkish leader’s first visit since the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.
Rocky relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia worsened significantly after the brutal killing of Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018.
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“They expect me in February. They made a promise and I will pay a visit to Saudi Arabia in February,” Erdogan said in a video posted on social media on Monday.
The comment came in response to a question about Turkish exporters’ issues with Saudi Arabia on the sidelines of a trade event in Istanbul.
There was no immediate confirmation of the planned visit from Riyadh.
Khashoggi, 59, was a journalist who wrote a column for The Washington Post and had gone to the consulate to obtain documents for his wedding to Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz.
He was killed and dismembered in the consulate in a case that tarnished the reputation of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman despite his strenuous denial of any involvement.
Khashoggi’s remains have never been found, and Erdogan at the time blamed senior Saudi officials though he never named Crown Prince Mohamed.
The killing made headlines around the world and a trial of several Saudi defendants is currently under way in Turkey.
In the years that followed, Saudi Arabia sought to informally put pressure on the Turkish economy, which had already suffered a currency crisis in 2018.
There were calls for Saudis to avoid visiting Turkey and purchasing property there while Turkish exporters complained of delays at Saudi customs in 2020.
Relations between the two countries have also been strained by other conflicts in the region, including the wars in Syria and Libya.
In addition, Riyadh, along with several other states in the region, has repeatedly accused Turkey of supporting “terrorist” groups.
But Turkey has been seeking to repair ties with regional rivals including Egypt and Saudi Arabia in the past two years.
Last May, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was in Saudi Arabia for the first time since Khashoggi’s murder, signalling the end of the long diplomatic winter between the two countries, with both sides announcing at the time that they hoped to repair ties.
The planned visit to Saudi Arabia comes at a critical moment for Turkey, suffering another currency crisis caused by Erdogan’s unconventional economic policies.
Relations between Ankara and the United Arab Emirates are also showing signs of rapprochement.
In the first high-level visit to Turkey since 2012 last November, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed was in Ankara during which the United Arab Emirates announced billions of dollars of investments in Turkey.