Saudi crown prince to visit Turkey for first time since Khashoggi assassination

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will travel to Turkey on Wednesday for an official visit that caps three and a half years of tensions following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

The prince will be received at the presidential palace in Ankara, said Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdogan.

Both countries are expected to sign several agreements during the trip, according to an official source, who requested anonymity.

This first visit, which was expected for months, is the prince’s first trip to Turkey since the murder in the Riyadh consulate in Istanbul of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.

The death of the reporter, a harsh critic of the kingdom, shocked the world and strained ties between these rival regional powers.

But in late April, Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia and met with the crown prince before traveling to Mecca for Ramadan.

Erdogan and the Saudi prince discussed in the city of Jeddah “the means to develop” relations between the two countries, the Saudi state agency SPA reported after the meeting.

The Khashoggi case froze relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia for more than three years, already very tense since the blockade decreed by the Saudis against Qatar, an ally of Ankara.

Khashoggi, who lived in the United States and collaborated with The Washington Post, was murdered and dismembered at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, and his remains were never found.

The journalist had gone to the consulate to get a paper needed to marry his Turkish fiancée.

After the shock generated by the crime, Erdogan said that “the highest levels” of the Saudi government were involved. This, together with the opening of a local investigation, the judicial process and the details given to the international press caused outrage in the kingdom.

Amid the diplomatic row, Saudi Arabia has tightened ties with the Turks’ long-standing rivals such as Greece and Cyprus.

At the beginning of April, the Turkish justice closed the process for the murder of the journalist and left the case in the hands of the Saudi authorities, opening the way for a rapprochement between the two countries.

After an opaque judicial process in Saudi Arabia, five people were sentenced to death and three to prison terms, but the sentences were not carried out.

The Saudi prince has already overcome diplomatic ostracism and US President Joe Biden is scheduled to travel to the Middle East in mid-July, with a visit to Saudi Arabia to meet with the heir apparent.

French President Emmanuel Macron was in the kingdom last December, ending a regional tour with a visit to Jeddah.

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