Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will visit Turkey next week, the Turkish president said in a further sign of bridge-building between the one-time regional rivals.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the prince’s official visit following Friday prayers in Istanbul and said improvements to Turkish-Saudi relations would be discussed at a “much higher degree”.
He said he would host Saudi Arabia’s crown prince at the presidential palace in Ankara on Wednesday. A delegation has already arrived in Turkey to make preparations for the official visit, Mr Erdogan added.
“We will hold bilateral and inter-delegation meetings [at the palace]. I hope relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia will be very good for the coming period.”
The visit follows Mr Erdogan’s trip to the Gulf kingdom in late April, his first in five years, during which he had a meeting with Prince Mohammed as well as with King Salman.
The path to improved ties was laid out in the run-up to Mr Erdogan’s visit, when a Turkish court abandoned the trial in absentia of 26 Saudis accused of involvement in the 2018 murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The writer for The Washington Post was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in a case that led to worldwide outrage. The prince has denied any involvement although he has said he was ultimately responsible and vowed to reform the security agencies in response.
Following the killing, Mr Erdogan said the order to kill Khashoggi came from “the highest levels of the Saudi government”, but Ankara has softened its tone significantly in recent months as it has moved to repair ties with Riyadh.
It has also reached out to other Arab states, including Egypt, where relations were damaged due to Ankara's support for the Muslim Brotherhood, and the UAE, where ties suffered due to Turkey's opposition to the Gulf country's position in the four-year rift with Qatar.
That obstacle to a reconciliation was removed early last year with the AlUla summit in which the leaders of the Gulf states and Qatar resolved their disagreements.
Improved ties with Riyadh have already led to the end of an unofficial Saudi boycott of Turkish goods that cut Ankara’s exports to the kingdom by 90 per cent.
Efforts to warm diplomatic relations have come as Turkey faces its worst economic crisis during Mr Erdogan’s 20-year rule.
Inflation has leapt above 70 per cent and the lira has shed more than a fifth of its value against the US dollar this year, having lost 44 per cent in 2021.
The economy is expected to be a major factor in presidential and parliamentary elections due in the next 12 months.
Analysts say Turkey will expect Saudi Arabia to undertake investment and financial backing to ease its economic troubles. As ties improved with the UAE, Abu Dhabi announced a $10 billion investment support fund and a $4.9bn currency swap at the end of last year.
Turkish companies would also relish better access to the huge Saudi market while an increase in Saudi tourists would also boost the flagging economy.
Prince Mohammed is also expected to travel to Cyprus, Greece, Jordan and Egypt.