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Turkey: Exports to Saudi Arabia increase 25 percent in the first quarter of 2022

Increasing exports may be a sign that Riyadh is easing its trade embargo against Ankara amid negotiations to drop the Khashoggi case
Workers collect onions during the harvest on a farm, in the Polatli district of Ankara in 2019 (AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Turkey's exports to Saudi Arabia jumped by 25 percent in the first quarter of 2022, data shared by the Turkish Exporters’ Assembly indicated on Monday, amid reconciliation attempts between the two regional powers. 

Turkish exports reached nearly $70m in the first three months of this year, from an equivilent of $55m last year. The bulk of the exports occurred in March, increasing to $58m from $18.5m, a 215 percent increase year-on-year. 

Even though the amount is miniscule compared to what it was in 2020, it may be a sign that Riyadh is easing pressure on Ankara after months-long, behind-the-door talks and some Turkish reconciliation steps. For example, Turkey in January 2020 alone exported $221m worth of goods to Saudi Arabia. 

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Saudi Arabia has been imposing a silent embargo on Turkish goods since 2018, when relations spiralled after Saudi agents murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. Riyadh accuses Ankara of trying to unseat Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with the case. As a result, Turkish exports saw a sharp drop of nearly 92 percent throughout 2021

An Istanbul court is expected on Thursday to transfer a lawsuit against the murder suspects, who are being tried in absentia, to the Saudi authorities as part of an arrangement to repair relations. 

In recent months, Turkey has been working to improve relations with several regional powers that it had previously held antagonistic relations with, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Israel.

As ties with its rivals warm, Ankara has been seeking financial and economic boons to offset the continued pressure Turkey is feeling over the flagging lira and high inflation.

A Turkish official told Middle East Eye that they still don’t see a dramatic shift that would show for certain that Riyadh is removing the embargo. “We are quite closely following the issue and it is too early to say things are changing,” the official said. 

A Turkish businessman who closely follows bilateral trade told MEE that Turkey is seriously in need of Saudi investment and tourism.

“Exports are really crucial and we all expect to leave all this behind,” the businessman said.

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