The Saudi crown prince was expected to arrive in Turkey on Wednesday for his first visit since Saudi agents assassinated prominent dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018, driving a deep wedge between the two regional powers.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the oil-rich kingdom’s de facto leader, was scheduled to meet Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Ankara’s presidential palace in what would be a symbolic mending of the fences between two heavyweights of Middle East, whose rivalry has developed in recent years in conflicts from Libya and Egypt to the Persian Gulf.
Crippled by rising domestic inflation, Erdogan has been courting regional leaders to help boost Turkey’s economy ahead of next year’s presidential election.
Confirming the high-level visit last week, Mr Erdogan said he hoped his personal meeting with Prince Mohammed would present an opportunity to take Turkey-Saudi relations to a higher level.
The rapprochement follows similar moves by other countries to rebuild ties with Saudi Arabia, which sparked global outrage over the killing and dismemberment of Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018.
Prince Mohammed, 36, has denied supervising or having prior knowledge of the operation to kill or capture Khashoggi. But a 2018 assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency concluded that he had approved the operation that killed Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia.
The murder quickly severed ties between the two countries.
Turkey angered Saudi Arabia by immediately opening a vigorous investigation into Prince Mohammed’s murder and humiliation by informing the international media of the lurid details of the assassination, slowly trickling them out over time to heighten outrage around the world. Erdogan said the order to dismember Khashoggi came from the “highest levels” of the Saudi government, but avoided blaming the prince directly.