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Turkey and Saudi Arabia commit to further talks after Mecca meeting

Visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu follows years of diplomatic hostilities which peaked with 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi consulate in Istanbul
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Mecca on 11 May 2021 (Twitter)
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Istanbul

Turkey and Saudi Arabia will continue to resolve their differences, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday night, after meeting his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Mecca.

Cavusoglu’s visit to Saudi Arabia was the first in recent years, a gesture by Ankara to show that Turkey was keen to address tensions and overcome a row over the 2018 assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. 

"I want to thank my brother Prince Faisal for his invitation and hospitality. We held a very open and frank meeting and addressed some problematic areas in our relationship," Cavusoglu said in televised comments.

He added that they had also discussed Israeli “aggression” in Palestine.

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"With the Saudi foreign minister, we didn't just discuss our bilateral ties, but we also discussed the steps we can take within the OIC, Arab League and beyond," he said, using the acronym for the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. 

The Saudi government, meanwhile, did not issue any statement following the visit.

Cavusoglu’s visit to Saudi Arabia followed a phone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi King Salman in which they discussed Riyadh’s recent decision to permanently close eight Turkish schools.

“The phone call was cordial and positive but there wasn’t much substance,” one person familiar with the issue told Middle East Eye. “Saudis use positive language during meetings but boycotts against Turkish exports strictly continue.”

Since last year, the Saudi government has imposed an unofficial boycott on Turkish goods, resulting in a more than 90 per cent drop in Turkish exports to the kingdom. Late last month, Turkey raised concerns regarding the boycott to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Officials told MEE earlier this month that even though Ankara wanted to repair ties with Riyadh, Turkey would not intervene in the trial against the Saudi operatives accused of murdering Khashoggi in the kingdom's Istanbul consulate.

Reuters also reported that Turkey intended to discuss the sale of Turkish armed drones to Saudi Arabia as part of the reconciliation talks. 

Cavusoglu, in a separate message posted on Twitter, said that both sides agreed to work on positive issues on the Turkish and Saudi agendas and to hold regular consultations.

Tensions have risen between Turkey and Saudi Arabia since the 2011 uprisings across the Arab world, when Riyadh accused Ankara of supporting Islamist political groups.