Ankara: Tensions between the two countries are expected to improve dramatically after Thursday’s meeting in Jeddah between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.
The ice-breaking meeting – the highest-level diplomatic meeting between Turkey and Saudi Arabia since 2017 – is part of a broader effort by Turkey in recent months to improve its ties with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, during which Economic ties have been revived. And Turkey has avoided regional conflicts. Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia lifted a ban on Turkish goods, which had been in effect for four years.
As a result of Erdogan’s visit, both countries are set to promote bilateral cooperation in health, energy, food security, defence, agriculture and finance. Turkey’s emerging drone technology could also be of interest to Riyadh.
Erdogan was received by the governor of Mecca, Prince Khalid al-Faisal, who is also the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and advisor to several senior officials. Erdogan also met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The two-day visit is expected to signal a new chapter not only in economic terms, but also in regional politics – creating a bloc that will exert greater influence on regional crisis points.
Prior to his visit, Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul: “My visit is a manifestation of our common desire to usher in a new era of cooperation as two brother countries with historical, cultural and humanitarian ties. We value the stability and security of our brothers as much as our own stability and security.”
On the first day of his visit, Erdogan said: “I am confident that we will take our relations to the level they were before. My visit will open the door to a new era with our friend (and) brother Saudi Arabia.”
A political alignment between the two countries would give Ankara more weight when it comes to issues including Syria, Egypt, Iraq and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Defense analyst, Oubai Shahbandar, believes Erdogan’s visit is a big boost to natural partners who share common security interests.
“Turkey’s defense industry will find an eager and valuable partner in Saudi Arabia,” he told Arab News. “And the Kingdom will greatly benefit from Turkey’s advanced technical expertise in the defense sector and wide variety of products that will be immeasurably valuable in Saudi’s ongoing counter-terrorism campaign against Iranian-backed proxies.”
The Turkey-Saudi defense partnership reached its peak in 2016 when ASELSAN, one of Turkey’s top defense companies, signed a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Saudi defense companies TAQNIA and KACST.
According to Shahbandar, Riyadh-Ankara security cooperation is likely to expand over time based on their shared interests and shared understanding on how to achieve regional stability in the light of Iranian activity.
Baitul Dogan Akkas, an associate fellow at Al-Shark Strategic Research, believes the visit indicates a joint desire for diplomatic reconciliation.
“Erdogan noted the Houthi attacks on Saudi territory and condemned the recent drone and missile attacks targeting Saudi land. He has (important) helpful comments to the state regarding the war in Yemen. Although I don’t think Saudi Arabia and Turkey will cooperate politically again in the short term in Libya or Syria, there will at least be some kind of narrative support,” she told Arab News.
Akkas highlighted several potential areas of cooperation.
“The opening chapter may be economic cooperation – this is not surprising, as the economy is at the top of Turkey’s agenda with the Gulf countries. Erdogan mainly employed Turkish construction companies to work and/or invest in the state. Referred to,” she said.
Following Erdogan’s historic visit, Turkish construction companies are also expected to participate in development projects as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 – a mutually lucrative move that will lure the Gulf capital to cash-starved Turkey.
In 2020, Turkish exports to Saudi Arabia reached about $2.62 billion, while exports to Saudi Turkey – mostly fuel products – stood at about $1.8 billion.
A second area of cooperation, Akkas suggested, could be linked to ending Ankara’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The less emphasis Turkey places on its foreign policy, the less tension there will be in bilateral relations,” he said.
Experts also underline that coordination between Turkey and Saudi Arabia can lead to a common front against Iran.
“Turkey has been a supportive partner to the Gulf countries (against Iran) in the region and (has helped) balance its power and political intrigue. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is part of this, but in general But, the Kingdom and Turkey will cooperate on this growing threat,” Akkas said.
According to Aqas, the last area of possible cooperation is Syria – although Riyadh and Ankara initially took different stances regarding Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“Middle Eastern countries have ushered in an era of normalization with the Syrian regime (on that path) with Oman and the UAE. When it comes to ‘accepting’ Assad or normalizing relations with the regime, Turkey-Saudi cooperation can help these countries politically,” Akkas said.