Saudi Crown Prince, Erdogan Meet in Turkey With 'Full Normalization' in Sights

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meet at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, June 22, 2022. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Turkey for the first time in years on Wednesday for talks with President Tayyip Erdogan to fully normalize ties.

The visit marks a step in efforts by the de facto Saudi leader to rehabilitee his image beyond the Gulf and comes as Erdogan seeks financial support that could help relieve Turkey's beleaguered economy ahead of tight elections for the president.

In April, Erdogan held one-on-one talks with Prince Mohammed in Saudi Arabia after a months-long drive to mend relations between the regional powers.

Erdogan said last week he and Prince Mohammed would discuss "to what much higher level" they can take ties during talks in Ankara.

Erdogan welcomed Prince Mohammed at the presidential palace in Ankara with a ceremony and the two shook hands and embraced, before being met by members of the Turkish cabinet.

In a statement following the talks, the two countries emphasized their determination on ushering in a new period of cooperation in bilateral relations.

The Turkish official said the two countries had lifted restrictions on trade, flights, and the screening of TV series, with mutual negative media coverage also halted.

However, he said negotiations on a possible currency swap line - which could help restore Turkey's diminished foreign reserves - were not moving "as fast as desired" and will be discussed privately between Erdogan and Prince Mohammed.

The two countries also discussed improving cooperation in trade and sectors such as defense, energy, and tourism among others, the joint statement said. It added that Ankara invited Saudi investment funds to invest in Turkish startups.

CRITICISM HALTED

Prince Mohammed is on his first tour outside the Gulf region in over three years including a visit to Jordan.

Prince Mohammed has been leveraging Saudi Arabia's vast wealth and oil production capacity to lure in Western leaders and private business partners, hoping shifting geopolitics and a focus on social and economic reforms would soften criticism of his human rights record.

U.S. President Joe Biden is set to visit Saudi Arabia in July as Washington struggles with record-high gasoline prices and building a united front against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

The visit also comes as Turkey's economy is badly strained by a slumping lira and inflation soaring beyond 70%. Saudi funds and foreign currency could help Erdogan shore up support ahead of elections by June 2023, analysts say.

The Turkish official said Saudi Arabia may be interested in companies within the Turkish Wealth Fund or elsewhere, or in making investments similar to those by the United Arab Emirates in recent months.

The person added that the leaders will also discuss the possible sale of Turkish armed drones to Riyadh.


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