ANKARA (AFP) -Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah arrived here for a three-day official visit, the first by a Saudi monarch to mainly Muslim but strictly secular Turkey, with economic cooperation expected to top the agenda.
The king was to hold talks with President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Turkish hosts stepped up security measures for Abdullah’s arrival, including snipers positioned on rooftops at Ankara airport.
Increased economic ties were expected to be high on the agenda: Turkey is eager to lure investment from wealthy oil-producing Middle Eastern countries while Arab investors are seeking to place their petro-dollars.
Turkey’s economic relations with the Arab world have increased since Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, a conservative movement with roots in political Islam, came to power in Ankara in 2002.
The two countries were expected to sign several agreements, including a military cooperation accord and another on the prevention of double taxation.
The talks were also likely to cover the crisis in Lebanon and other regional issues.
Turkey has been Israel’s chief regional ally since the two signed a military cooperation deal in 1996, but Turkish officials have strongly condemned the country’s offensives in Lebanon and Gaza, which have claimed hundreds of civilian lives.
Abdullah, accompanied by a group of Saudi business people, was to spend time in Istanbul on Wednesday and Thursday, including visits to Ottoman palaces and other historical sites and meetings with representatives of the Turkish business community.
“The pledges that King Abdullah will make in Turkey will be very important for the development of economic relations,” Ali Bayramoglu, the chairman of a Turkish-Saudi business group, told Anatolia news agency.