The case of the murder of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi overshadowed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s first visit to Saudi Arabia in years.
The Wall Street Journal, quoting regional officials, revealed that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had sought a promise that Erdogan would not mention Khashoggi’s murder again and would persuade the Turkish media to stop raising the issue.
The newspaper reported that Erdogan and Mohammed bin Salman had been looking forward to meeting for months. Qatari officials had unsuccessfully tried to bring the two men together in Doha last December.
According to the newspaper, the end of the dispute last year between Turkey’s ally Qatar, Saudi Arabia and its allies in the UAE and Bahrain has accelerated a wave of diplomacy that has reshaped the geopolitics of the Middle East.
On Thursday evening, Erdogan met Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz in Jeddah at the start of his first visit to the kingdom since the Khashoggi murder case in Istanbul in 2018, which caused a rift in relations between the two regional powers.
Erdogan’s plane landed in Jeddah, and he was received at the airport by the Emir of the Holy Mecca region, Khaled Al-Faisal, according to the state-run Al-Ekhbariya channel.
The Turkish president met with King Salman bin Abdulaziz and his son Mohammed bin Salman.
Erdogan’s visit comes at a time when Turkey is facing a severe financial crisis that prompted it to turn the page on differences with its opponents, such as Egypt and Israel, especially the oil-rich Gulf countries, as the Turkish economy is witnessing the collapse of its currency and the high inflation rate, which exceeded 60 per cent during the past year.
Before leaving, Erdogan told reporters, “We will try to launch a new era and strengthen all political, military, economic and cultural ties,” adding, “I hope this visit will provide an opportunity to strengthen relations based on mutual trust and respect.”
“We believe that strengthening cooperation in areas including defence and finance is our common interest,” he added.
Khashoggi, a journalist who wrote articles for the Washington Post that criticized the crown prince, the country’s de facto ruler, was killed on October 2, 2018, in his country’s consulate in Istanbul, in an operation that dismembered him and caused a shock in the world and a rupture in relations.
The Turkish president accused the “highest levels” in the Saudi government of giving the order to assassinate the hands of Saudi elements. Still, he excluded the Saudi king from the accusation.
The US Central Intelligence Agency pointed the finger at the crown prince, while the body of the slain journalist was not found.
Turkey began a trial in absentia in July 2020 against 26 Saudis suspected of involvement in the murder of Khashoggi. On April 7, it transferred the file to Saudi Arabia, which means that the curtain has been brought to a close in Turkey, which angered human rights organizations.
The trial in Turkey seemed to be the last obstacle to Erdogan’s visit, who had announced his intention to go to the kingdom at the beginning of the year while trade relations were improving between the two economic powers.
Five people have been sentenced to death in the kingdom over Khashoggi’s murder. But in September 2020, a court in Riyadh issued final verdicts in the case, imprisoning eight convicts for terms ranging from 20 to seven years, reversing death sentences after secret judicial procedures.
Saudi human rights activists emphasized that returning relations with Turkey does not mean turning the page on the Khashoggi murder. It is the issue of the Saudi people and not the issue of his family.
The most prominent of them is that political authorities in the Saudi regime killed a Saudi citizen for his opinion, so how can it be an issue of international bilateral relations or a family relationship!