JEDDAH — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived on Monday in Saudi Arabia at the start of a three-state Gulf tour as he looks to attract foreign investment in his country’s ailing economy.
Erdogan landed in the Red Sea city of Jeddah to meet King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler, before heading for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar later this week.
Saudi’s state-run Al Ekhbariya TV aired footage of the Turkish president appearing at a Saudi-Turkish business forum intended to drum up investment in Turkey’s faltering economy.
Similar business forums are planned for his trips to the UAE and Qatar.
“During our visits, our primary agenda will be joint investment and commercial activities with these countries in the upcoming period,” Erdogan said before leaving Istanbul.
He said two-way trade with Gulf countries has shot up from $1.6 billion to approximately $22 billion over the past 20 years.
“With the business forums to be organised, we will look for ways to move this figure much further,” Erdogan said.
The visit is his second to Saudi Arabia since a rapprochement. Ties between the two countries were strained by the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.
Turkey angered Saudi Arabia by vigorously pursuing the case at the time, opening an investigation and briefing international media on the gory details of the killing.
But with ties on the mend, Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia in April 2022, and Prince Mohammed travelled to Turkey in June last year.
In March, Saudi Arabia deposited $5 billion into Turkey’s central bank.
Erdogan’s latest Saudi trip comes as Turkey battles a currency collapse and soaring inflation that has battered its economy.
The two countries will sign several accords during Erdogan’s trip as Ankara looks to non-Western partners for financial support, a senior Saudi official told AFP on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the press.
Erdogan’s Gulf tour follows his relection in May for another five-year term.
“Erdogan’s visit to the Gulf after the critical elections held in Turkey itself reflects the importance of the Gulf states in the Turkish foreign policy agenda,” Sinem Cengiz, a researcher at Qatar University, told AFP.
“Growing Gulf interest in investing in diverse sectors is a boost for Turkey, which is trying to increase exports to help ease its economic problems,” said the expert on Gulf-Turkish relations.
Ankara has embarked on a charm offensive to improve relations with Gulf states including the UAE and Saudi Arabia after years of rivalry following the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.
Speaking about Erdogan’s visit to Doha, Qatar’s ambassador to Turkey said the trip would “boost cooperation”.
“This visit is an important indicator of the solid relations that bind Turkey and Qatar,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Nasser bin Jassim Al-Thani told Turkey’s Anadolu Agency ahead of the visit to Qatar.
Bin Nasser said the agenda for Erdogan’s visit to Doha would include expanding investments between the two countries. — Agencies