Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, state media reported, his first visit since the 2018 assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi drove a wedge between the two Sunni powers.
The journey comes as Turkey, faced with an economic crisis fueled by the collapse of its currency and rising inflation, seeks financial support from the energy-rich Gulf states.
Erdogan’s plane landed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s second city, for a visit expected to include a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Before departing from Istanbul, Erdogan said he hoped “to usher in a new era” in bilateral ties.
“We believe that strengthening cooperation in areas such as defense and finance is in our mutual interest,” he said.
Saudi agents murdered and dismembered Khashoggi, a Saudi insider turned critic and columnist for The Washington Post, in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
His remains have never been found.
The horrific act threatened to isolate Saudi Arabia, especially Prince Salman, as Riyadh’s regional rivalry with Ankara escalated.
Turkey infuriated the Saudis by going ahead with an investigation into the assassination, which Erdogan said was ordered at the “highest level” of the Saudi government.
Saudi Arabia responded by unofficially putting pressure on the Turkish economy by boycotting key Turkish imports.
But trade between the two has gradually improved, and in January Erdogan said he planned to visit Riyadh.
Earlier this month, an Istanbul court dropped the trial of 26 Saudi suspects linked to Khashoggi’s death in absentia and handed the case over to Saudi Arabia.
The Turkish decision outraged human rights activists and Khashoggi’s widow Hatice Cengiz, who vowed to appeal to a higher court.
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