Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country’s differences with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been overcome, describing the disputes as ones “within the same family.”
Erdogan made the remarks during an event on the occasion of Youth and Sports Day and the commemoration of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, at the presidential complex in the capital, Ankara, on Thursday.
“We have overcome the differences with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, and we have drawn up plans for the rapid development of bilateral relations in the fields of trade, industry, defense industries, culture and tourism, and we are taking steps to do so,” he said.
Erdogan went on to say that Turkey has a lot in common with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, expressing certainty that the path started by Ankara towards the two countries will make very important contributions, both at the commercial and political levels.
The Turkish president further referred to his recent visit to Abu Dhabi to offer his condolences on the death of the late President of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, following nearly a decade of strained relations due to regional disputes.
He said relations with Saudi Arabia are also “moving in a more positive direction,” while announcing that Ankara will cooperate with the two countries in the field of defense industry.
Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia last month to mend fences between Ankara and Riyadh.
Ties between Ankara and Riyadh took a nosedive in 2018 after dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul in October 2018.
Saudi Arabia initially issued conflicting stories about Khashoggi’s disappearance, but eventually claimed that the Washington Post columnist had been killed in a “rogue” operation.
However, Turkish officials released an audio recording of Khashoggi’s killing that they said contained evidence that Khashoggi had been assassinated on the orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).
The high-profile targeted killing has affected Riyadh’s relations with a number of countries, but those relations are being restored with the subsiding of the global outrage sparked by the gruesome murder.
Biden may meet MBS as early as June
A new report has revealed that US President Joe Biden may meet in person with the Saudi crown prince, also known as the kingdom’s de facto ruler, as early as next month.
CNN, citing multiple officials, reported on Thursday that Biden administration officials are currently in talks with their Saudi counterparts about a potential meeting between the two leaders while the US president is overseas next month.
“You should count on something like this happening, it just comes down to when, not if,” said a former US official familiar with the issue, adding, “Because of our multiple shared national security interests, [a meeting] is a good thing.”
A meeting between Biden and bin Salman would likely coincide with a Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Riyadh, the sources added.
The potential meeting would come after months of turbulent relations and multiple attempts at rapprochement by the White House.
It would also mark a turning point for Biden, whose administration declared last year that it sought to “re-calibrate” its relations with Saudi Arabia, and refused to arrange a call between Biden and MBS.
Under that decision, the White House explained, Biden’s counterpart is King Salman, not his son, and Mohammed bin Salman was told to communicate with Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III.
Similar to its relations with Ankara, Riaydh’s once intimate relationship with Washinton turned sour after the Biden administration published an assessment by US intelligence agencies that concluded MBS personally ordered the killing.
The Biden administration, however, has neither punished the prince nor halted its support for Saudi Arabia’s bloody war on Yemen.