FM Çavuşoğlu to visit Saudi in first Turkish diplomatic trip since 2017

85’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is expected to visit Saudi Arabia for diplomatic talks next week, as the two regional powers ramp up efforts to mend ties that have become strained over the years.

As officials told Reuters, the minister’s planned trip will follow Turkey’s talks this week with Egypt, another U.S.-allied regional power, also aimed at normalizing ties after years of tensions and rivalry.

Turkey’s ties with Saudi Arabia, already strained by Ankara’s support for Qatar in a Gulf dispute, were thrown into crisis when Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi – a critic of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) – was killed by a Saudi hit squad in Istanbul in 2018.

Aside from the Khashoggi incident, Saudi Arabia’s rapprochement with Israel, support of the coup in Egypt and its stance on Libya and Syria have been other points of contention between Ankara and Riyadh.

The crisis prompted an unofficial Saudi boycott of Turkish goods, slashing trade value by 98%. Saudi Arabia is also closing eight Turkish schools in the kingdom, Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu Agency (AA) reported last month.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that President Erdoğan and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz agreed in a call on Tuesday for Çavuşoğlu and his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud to hold talks on May 11.

“With this visit, it is possible to open a new period together,” a senior Turkish official said, adding the talks would focus on trade, bilateral ties and regional issues like the conflict in Libya where Turkey has deployed its military.

In 2018, Erdoğan said the order to kill Khashoggi came from the “highest levels” of the Saudi government, and a U.S. intelligence report released in February found MBS had approved the killing – a charge Saudi Arabia rejects.

However, Turkish Presidental Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters last month that Ankara was seeking to mend ties with Riyadh through a positive agenda and, in a change of tone, said Turkey respected the outcome of a Saudi trial last year of Khashoggi’s killers.

At the time, Ankara said the ruling was not satisfactory and urged Saudi authorities to cooperate with Turkey, where a trial in absentia of 20 Saudi officials is taking place.


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