Thick as thieves: Saudi Arabia and Turkey’s flourishing friendship

Published October 2nd, 2016 - 11:06 GMT
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shakes hand of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef. (AFP/File)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shakes hand of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef. (AFP/File)

Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday after arriving in Turkey one day earlier for a two-day visit.

Friday's meeting is the sixth to take place between President Erdogan and Saudi leaders in less than a year -- and the second between Erdogan and bin Nayef in less than 10 days.

On Sept. 21, the Turkish president and the Saudi crown prince also met on the sidelines of the 71st UN General Assembly meeting in New York. And earlier this month, Erdogan met Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on the sidelines of a G20 summit in China.

In April, King Salman visited Turkey for his second visit in six months.

The uptick in high-level Turkish-Saudi meetings, say observers, reflects the mutual desire to communicate, exchange views and bolster bilateral cooperation.

This desire was manifested in an April agreement between Ankara and Riyadh to establish a team specifically tasked with strengthening bilateral trade ties.

Notably, Saudi Arabia tops the list of countries that supported the Turkish people and their democratically elected government against a July 15 coup attempt.

On Sept. 8, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir visited Turkey, where he was received by the Turkish president.

And last December, when President Erdogan made a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, the two countries agreed to establish a "Council for Strategic Cooperation".

Like-minded

Both countries embrace similar policies, particularly in terms of the Palestinian cause and other "Islamic" issues.

On the Syria crisis, both countries share the same vision, agreeing on the inevitability of the Assad regime's departure and support for the Syrian opposition -- all the while stressing the need for a political solution that guarantees Syria's unity and territorial integrity.

Turkey also backs a Saudi-led international coalition in support of Yemen's government.

On the military front, relations have recently become increasingly close with both countries taking part in four joint war-games this year.

In June, Saudi forces participated in the ISIK-2016 military exercise held in Turkey's Konya, along with two other military exercises conducted one month earlier.

Turkey, meanwhile, took part in the Northern Thunder military exercises held in northern Saudi Arabia in February and March.

In terms of counter-terrorism, Saudi warplanes in February landed at the Incirlik airbase in Turkey's southern Adana province as part of a 60-nation coalition assembled to fight the Daesh militant group.

What's more, in February, Turkish defense producer Aselsan inked a deal with the Saudi Technology Development and Investment Company (TAQNIA) to establish a joint venture for the development of electronic defense systems.

Turkey is also a prominent member of the Islamic military coalition against terrorism, the establishment of which Riyadh announced last December and which currently includes some 40 member-states.

Economic ties

Warming Turkish-Saudi ties also extend to the commercial and economic levels.

In this context, Saudi investors enjoy a special position in the Turkish economy, while Turkish investors have benefited from a host of infrastructure projects in Saudi Arabia.

An active Saudi-Turkish Business Council, meanwhile, which includes entrepreneurs from both countries, continues to promote a robust trade relationship.

Experts, however, believe the full potential for bilateral trade cooperation has yet to be realized.

In this regard, Turkish Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Yunus Demirer recently told Anadolu Agency that current economic relations should be bolstered to better reflect the two country's burgeoning ties.

According to Demirer, the annual commercial exchange between Saudi Arabia and Turkey currently stands at some $8 billion -- a figure, he said, that could be augmented further.

He went on to note that Saudi investment in Turkey -- especially in the tourism and real estate sectors -- had recently increased, while about 800 Saudi companies were currently operating in the country.

At the same time, there are some 200 Turkish companies currently operating in Saudi Arabia doing an estimated $17 billion of business per year, the diplomat said.

Demirer urged Turkish businessmen to invest in Saudi Arabia, particularly in light of Riyadh's long-term strategy of diversifying away from energy sales as its prime source of income.

By Ahmed Al-Masri


© Copyright Andolu Ajansi

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