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Turkey moves to mend ties with Saudi Arabia

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Turkey’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu began an official two-day visit to the Kingdom on in a bid to improve relations seriously undermined since 2018 by the Jamal Khashoggi case.

  The visit followed a recent phone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz on May 4.

  During the visit, bilateral relations, trade and regional issues, including Libya, are expected to be discussed, especially during Cavusoglu’s meeting with Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud.

  “Since the fall of 2020, Turkey has been concertedly working to repair its relationships with regional powers in the Middle East,” Samuel Ramani, a Middle East expert at the University of Oxford, told reporters.

  “Turkey’s policy shift was driven by its desire for more investment and trade opportunities, its realisation of the limits of unilateralism and desire to hedge against its increasingly erratic relationships with great powers, such as Russia, the United States, Europe and China,” he said.

  The recent decision by Saudi Arabia to close eight out of 26 Turkish schools by the end of the 2020-2021 academic year drew anger from Ankara, which claimed that 2,256 Turkish students would face challenges in education elsewhere as they are not fluent in Arabic.

  Ankara will also raise the issue of lifting the Saudi unofficial boycott of Turkish goods since 2019, which has resulted in a significant fall in Turkish exports to the Kingdom.

  Experts consider this decision a signal that Saudi Arabia has some prerequisites for launching normalisation with Turkey, particularly on its policies toward the Arab world — especially ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and its military presence in Libya, Somalia, Qatar, Iraq and Syria.

  Turkish exports to Saudi Arabia dropped by 94 percent year-on-year and stood at about $75 million in the first three months of this year, while during the same period imports from Saudi Arabia rose from $430 million to some $600 million.

  Cavusoglu will also pay a visit to Egypt after his meeting in the Kingdom to normalise ties with another regional actor after a long period of enmity.

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