This Tuesday, the Saudi crown prince was not the ‘man of the saw’, as the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan called him five years ago. This Wednesday, Mohamed bin Salman set foot in the Ankara presidential palace with solemnity and between fraternal gestures with whom, in 2018, he had demanded justice against those responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The columnist’s memory was simply something to leave behind on Tuesday: Turkey and Saudi Arabia have turned their relationship 180 degrees.

The President of Turkey has received with all honors the de facto holder of the reins of the Kingdom of the Desert. Flanked by the flags of their respective nations and rows of turquoise soldiers, the two leaders have advanced through the courtyard to the steps leading to a meeting in which both faced a whirlwind of unfinished business. Some of them have become pressing in recent times, marked by Turkish efforts to rebuild bridges with its neighbors in the region.

“Turkey’s strained relations with countries in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia, have affected the country’s economic well-being,” says Cinem Cengiz, a researcher at the Middle East Polytechnic University (METU) and author of a book on the Turkish-Saudi bilateral relations. “The two countries are facing serious energy and food crises, as well as economic problems stemming from the post-Covid situation and the Russo-Ukrainian war,” she notes.

If anything illustrates Ankara’s radical change in position regarding Riyadh, it is the management of the Khashoggi case. During the weeks and months after the retention, dismemberment and destruction of the remains of the columnist of ‘The Washington Post’, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkish police and judges were at the forefront of the efforts to clarify what happened. His investigations pointed to the top. The CIA, for its part, concluded that the order to kill Khashoggi could only have come from Bin Salman.

Last April, the Turkish Justice ruled in favor of transferring the entire Khashoggi case dossier to Riyadh. Of the plenary session of the 12th Istanbul High Criminal Court that decreed the measure, only one, Nimet Demir, opposed the transfer. This week Demir’s sudden move to Kahramanmaras in southern Anatolia was announced. He believes that it is a vendetta: “This would attract attention under autocratic systems. I am a victim,” the judge has complained to the ‘Middle East Eye’ media outlet.

Jamal Khashoggi’s then-fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, has also expressed her rejection of Bin Salman’s visit to Turkey, the last after a tour of Egypt and Jordan. “The political legitimacy he gains from these visits to different countries does not change the fact that he is a murderer,” Cengiz tweeted. “None of the diplomatic compromises will legitimize the injustice”, she has riveted her in another publication.

There are many factors that have determined the Turkish decision to abandon the path of confrontation with Saudi Arabia, and that had led Erdogan to open the doors of his country to members of proscribed formations in Riyadh, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, to support Qatar in his confrontation with the Saudis and to harshly criticize the heir Bin Salman. In response, Saudi Arabia had covertly approved harsh embargoes on Turkish goods.

Turkey’s change of stance has accelerated in the last year. In April, Erdogan visited Bin Salman. Sinem Cengiz believes that this has to do with the internal situation, marked by inflation of more than 70% weighed down by the price of energy. “Turkey and Saudi Arabia have complementary economies. Saudi Arabia is specialized in the energy sector, while Turkey specializes in the defense and food industry. This rapprochement is politically and economically logical.”

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