Turkey’s Erdogan Meets Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Eve of Eid

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan arrived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Thursday to meet Saudi leaders for bilateral talks, marking his first visit with the Kingdom’s rulers since 2017, the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Friday.

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz received Erdoğan at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah on the evening of April 28. Following an official reception ceremony and banquet welcoming the Turkish president to Jeddah, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held a meeting with Erdoğan.

“During the meeting, they reviewed the Saudi-Turkish relations and opportunities for developing them in various fields. They also discussed the latest regional and international developments and the exerted efforts towards them,” SPA reported on April 29.

Erdoğan presided over a press briefing at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport on April 28 moments before jetting to Jeddah later that same day for what the pro-Erdoğan Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah described as a “two-day working visit” in Saudi Arabia from April 28 to April 30.

“My visit (to Saudi Arabia) is the manifestation of our common will to start a new era of cooperation as two brotherly countries,” Erdoğan told reporters at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport.

“It is in our common interest to increase our cooperation with Saudi Arabia in fields such as health, energy, food security, agricultural technologies, defense industry, and finance,” he said.

“We express at every occasion that we place as much importance on the stability and security of our brothers in the Gulf region as our own,” the Turkish leader stated.

“Saudi Arabia holds a special place for Turkey in terms of trade and investments as well as the large-scale projects implemented by our contractors,” Erdoğan affirmed. “The total value of the projects our contractors have undertaken in Saudi Arabia reaches $24 billion. The complementary nature of our economies is the primary factor that attracts Saudi investors to the dynamic environment in Turkey.”

“Ties between Saudi Arabia and Turkey have been strained after the killing of [Saudi] journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018,” Al Arabiya noted on April 28.

The Amazon-owned Washington Post employed Khashoggi as a columnist from 2017 until his death in the autumn of 2018. The Mecca-born journalist was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018.

Saudi Crown Prince Bin Salman told the Atlantic in an interview published on March 3 he believed his human right to remain “innocent until proven guilty” was violated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) when the organization accused him of ordering Khashoggi’s 2018 killing. The C.I.A. made the allegation in a declassified intelligence report published in February 2021.

Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia are majority Sunni Muslim nations. Erdoğan’s visit to Saudi Arabia from April 28 to April 30 coincides with the hours leading up to Eid-al-Fitr. The three-day holiday means “festival of breaking the fast” in Arabic and signals the end of Ramadan, which is an Islamic holy month characterized by dawn-to-dusk fasting.

Muslim worshippers perform the Eid al-Fitr morning prayer at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, on May 13, 2021. (ABDULGHANI ESSA/AFP via Getty Images)

Turkey is officially a secular country, though 99 percent of its estimated population of 82 million is Muslim. Approximately 77.5 percent of Turkey’s Muslim population follows Hanafi Sunni Islam. Saudi Arabia’s total population is estimated at 34.2 million. “Between 85 and 90 percent of the approximately 21 million Saudi citizens are Sunni Muslims,” the U.S. State Department reported in 2020, noting that roughly 38.3 percent of Saudi residents are foreigners.

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