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Kingdom, Turkey look to patch up strained relationship
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Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdulaziz greets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the King Khalid International Airport in the Saudi capital Riyadh, on March 2, 2015. (Asharq Al-Awsat/Bandar Al-Galoud)

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdulaziz greets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the King Khalid International Airport in the Saudi capital Riyadh, on March 2, 2015. (Asharq Al-Awsat/Bandar Al-Galoud)

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Monday, as the two countries looked to patch up recently strained relations.

Erdoğan, who was in the Kingdom for an official state visit, was received by King Salman at the Royal Palace in Riyadh, where the two leaders discussed ways of enhancing bilateral cooperation in a number of different areas as well as issues of joint interest and the latest regional developments, the state-owned Saudi Press Agency said.

The visit, which came quickly on the heels of a visit by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who left Riyadh just a day before Erdoğan’s arrival on Monday, comes at a tense time for Saudi–Turkish relations.

Several Gulf states, with the Kingdom at their head, have been angered by Ankara’s vocal criticism of Egypt and Sisi since the ouster of former Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood from power in July 2013. Cairo and its Gulf allies have accused Erdoğan of interfering with Egypt’s sovereign affairs.

They also accuse Ankara of offering support to the Brotherhood, now banned in Egypt and several Gulf states as a terrorist group, and of sheltering members of the organization awaiting trial in other countries.

Others in the region are angered by what they see as Turkey’s reluctance to step up its involvement in the international coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and a number of other countries from the region are all members of the coalition, but many contend Ankara has been a much more reluctant participant of the initiative than its regional counterparts.

Despite a number of incidents involving ISIS occurring on its border with Syria in recent months, Turkey’s only known foray into the conflict with the group came last month during an operation to evacuate the tomb of a revered Turkish figure located on Syrian territory.

But many observers now see signs of a thaw in the diplomatic tensions that have been straining the relationship between Ankara and Riyadh over the past period.

Speaking to Arab News on Monday, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Turkey, Adel Bin Siraj Mirdad, said Erdoğan’s visit would open a “new era” in relations between the two countries, with several other senior diplomats also maintaining the visit was a positive sign and that the talks between both leaders had been fruitful.

The Turkish president arrived in Riyadh on Monday morning, landing at King Khalid International Airport, where he was greeted by King Salman along with Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister Muqrin Bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Riyadh Prince Faisal Bin Bandar Bin Abdulaziz, and Deputy Crown Prince and Second Deputy Prime Minister Prince Muhammad Bin Naif.

This followed a two-day visit to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina where Erdoğan performed visiting rites for the minor Umrah pilgrimage and visited the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad.

Erdoğan’s last visit to the Kingdom came in January when he was in Riyadh to offer his condolences to King Salman and the Saudi Royal Family on the death of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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