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Saudi Arabia pressuring local businesses to not trade with Turkey, say sources

Riyadh is reportedly trying to leverage economic pressure on Turkey over regional disagreements
A worker sits on a truck next to onions collected during an harvest in a farm in the Polatli district of Ankara on 6 August 2019 (AFP)
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Ankara

Saudi Arabia is pressuring local businesses not to do business with Turkey and detaining trucks carrying fresh fruits and vegetables at the border amid rising tensions between the two countries, Turkish officials told Middle East Eye on Thursday.

“Relevant authorities have contacted the Saudis about the issue,” a Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. “The trade minister already made a phone call to her Saudi counterpart.”

Saudi authorities individually contacted Saudi businesses telling them not to conduct trade with Turkish companies and threatened them with fines, Turkish newspaper Dunya reported.

“Saudi authorities cannot officially reveal this policy due to World Trade Organisation sanctions,” the report added, quoting a Turkish exporter. Under WTO rules, Turkey may file a dispute against Riyadh to seek compensation for recorded losses it if it can prove unwarranted Saudi tactics against its businesses.

Riyadh’s efforts against Turkish interests include cancelling the contracts of high-ranking Turkish employees working in the country. “You cannot even sell Turkish goods from Germany because they don’t want anything with a made in Turkey stamp,” the Dunya report said.

Fatih Gursoy, the chairman of the Turkey-Saudi Arabia Business Council, confirmed that Saudi authorities have been telephoning Saudi businesses on the issue.

“The propaganda against Turkish goods and Turkey has peaked,” Gursoy told MEE. “However the irony is that our exports to Saudi Arabia registered a record increase.”

Turkish trade ministry statistics indicate that Turkish exports to Saudi Arabia have increased by 40 percent year-on-year in June, reaching roughly $213m after a drop at the height of the coronavirus crisis

Saudi officials have been openly campaigning against Turkey since last year, when tensions between the two countries reached unprecedented levels due to regional disagreements and the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

Last year, Riyadh blocked the entrance of dozens of Turkish trucks carrying textile products and chemicals into the country while state-run media and leading business figures have advocated for boycotts of tourism and imports against Ankara.

“Since last year, Saudi authorities prevent Turkish firms from entering public tenders such as pharmaceutical purchases,” a person familiar with the matter said.

However, Saudi citizens seemingly don't listen to the boycott calls by authorities and continue to purchase property in Turkey in a bid to gain citizenship via investment, a Turkish lawyer that represents Saudi citizens said.