Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman took another step toward breaking his international isolation by paying his first visit to Turkey since the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom's Istanbul consulate.
Saudi crown prince Bin Salman, who is commonly referred to by his initials MBS, arrived in Ankara on Wednesday for the first time in years, where he is slated to hold talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In April, Erdogan dashed off to Saudi Arabia after a months-long efforts to mend relations between the two estranged countries. His decision to revive ties with one of his biggest rivals was also driven in large part by economics and trade.
Erdogan’s unconventional economic approach has set off an inflationary spiral that has seen consumer prices almost double in the past year. But his administration is now drumming up investment and central bank assistance from the very countries it opposed.
Turks' living standards are imploding one year before a general election that poses one of the biggest challenges of Erdogan's mercurial two-decade rule.
Turkey faces its worst economic crisis in two decades and is trying to draw investments from wealthy Arab states of Persian region. It has also taken steps to improve relations with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and the Israeli regime.
Ties between Ankara and Riyadh cratered after a Saudi hit squad killed and dismembered Khashoggi’s body with an electric saw in 2018 at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul, on the direct orders of MBS.
Following Khashoggi's brutal murder, Erdogan administration released drip-by-drip details of the gruesome murder that deeply embarrassed the Saudi prince.
As relations with Turkey frayed, Saudi Arabia launched an unofficial embargo on Turkish exports, dramatically curbing around $5 billion in bilateral trade. The kingdom also temporarily barred wildly popular Turkish soap operas.
Turkey's rapprochement with the Saudis began with an Istanbul court decision in April to break off the trial in absentia of more than two dozen suspects accused of links to Khashoggi's killing and to transfer the case to Riyadh.
The court's decision drew strong protests from activists around the globe. But it paved the way for a visit to Saudi by Erdogan three weeks later, when he hugged the crown prince.
Reacting to the development, fumed Turkey's main opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu -- Erdogan's likely chief rival in the presidential race, back then said that "He gets off the plane and hugs the killers.”
The talks in Ankara also come one month before US President Joe Biden’s scheduled trip to the region next month.
Biden is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia at the tail end of his July 13-16 trip that includes stops in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The killing of Khashoggi sparked global outrage and put pressure on the Saudi prince, who had approved the operation to kill or capture Khashoggi.
Khashoggi entered the consulate in October 2018 by appointment to obtain papers. He never emerged and his body was never found.
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.
At the time, Turkish officials released an audio recording of Khashoggi’s killing that they said contained evidence that Khashoggi had been assassinated on the orders of bin Salman.