World · June 23, 2022

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman makes first visit to Turkey since Khashoggi’s murder

The visit began with a welcome ceremony and will be followed by a face-to-face meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Crown Prince.

The trip comes as the West and the Middle East in general try to re-establish relations with the oil-rich kingdom in an effort to ease the financial strains caused by the pandemic and the skyrocketing energy prices caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. . In April, Erdogan met the crown prince in the Saudi city of Jeddah, a visit that ended the long diplomatic stalemate between the two countries.

The Crown Prince, known as MBS, is the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia. A wave of crackdowns against Saudi dissidents, culminating in the murder of Khashoggi by a 15-man squad of hit men, has strained relations between Riyadh and several Western states and Turkey.

However, then-US President Donald Trump stood alongside MBS – who was a pivot of Trump’s Middle East policy – even though the CIA said it believed the crown prince had approved the killing at the consulate.

According to official Turkish sources, a Saudi forensic expert equipped with a bone saw Khashoggi’s dismembered body after he was killed in the Istanbul consulate in October 2018. MBS denied involvement in the murder, which captured international headlines with details. macabre of the murder.

Erdogan spoke out strongly against the murder, launching an investigation into the murder, and diplomatic relations between the two countries broke down.

But a collapse of the Turkish lira and an inflation of over 70% seem to have forced the Turkish president to change course. For months, Ankara has been making openings in Riyadh – as well as Saudi Arabia’s closest Gulf ally, Abu Dhabi – to mend ties, including ending Khashoggi’s murder trial in April and moving the case to Riyadh.

Human rights groups condemned the move, claiming it would close the case. Khashoggi’s girlfriend Hatice Cengiz, a seasoned advocate for justice for the slain Saudi critic, said her legal team would appeal the decision.

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“The fact that he came to our country does not change the fact that he is responsible for the murder,” Cengiz tweeted Wednesday, referring to MBS ‘visit.

During his presidential campaign in the United States, Joe Biden voted to turn MBS into a “pariah” for his rights. As president, Biden refused to communicate directly with the powerful prince, opting instead to speak to his official counterpart, the ailing King Salman.

But fuel prices on the rise in the last weeks triggered a turnaround in Biden’s Saudi politics. Tense diplomatic relations drastically reduced U.S. influence in pushing Riyadh to pump more oil, until Biden stepped up diplomatic efforts and scheduled a first official visit to the kingdom, which is expected to take place in July. During the visit he should meet with MBS.

CNN’s Isil Sariyuce contributed to this report.