Saudi King Abdulaziz visits Turkey To Boost Ties, Stabilize Regional Peace!
08 April 2016
By Dr. Abdul Ruff
Entire West Asia, except US sponsored Israel, has been in turmoil for years
now with foreign forces invading, occupying and destabilizing the Arab nations
one by one. Saudi Arabia and Turkey in recent times have come together to make
the region tension free as well as nuke free. Turkish President Recep Tayyip
Erdogan's visit to Riyadh last year became a turning point in the bilateral
The King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin
Abdulaziz al Saud pays an official visit to Turkey on April 11-13 to boost
bilateral ties and discuss a range of issues from bilateral to global matters.
Turkish president's office confirmed in a statement that the meetings would be
held within the framework of the visit, in addition to bilateral relations,
both regional and global issues will be dealt with. The most important item in
King's bag is the Islamic Army and the fight against terror in Syria, Iraq,
Yemen and Lebanon.
The visit, the first after the King
was crowned in January 2015, comes on the eve of another round of peace talks
on Syria in Geneva this week. Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia remain staunchly
opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and support rebel factions that
have been fighting a five-year battle to oust the Damascus government. Both
Ankara and Riyadh want Assad's departure as part of the peace deal that will
follow the agreement on cessation of hostilities in Syria.
The King's visit may serve an opportunity to better coordinate
some of the policies between Ankara and Riyadh with respect to policies in the
region. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are regional heavyweights that pursue by and
large similar policies albeit with some differences. However, they differ on
who should be replacing Assad in the post-conflict era.
During the visit of Saudi King, a formal agreement establishing a high-level
strategic council, a mechanism for intergovernmental conference, is expected
to sign by leaders of both sides. The idea was first proposed during Turkish
President Erdogan's visit to Saudi Arabia in December and was further
discussed by visiting Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Riyadh in
January. Davutoglu underlined that the agreement will frame the shared
strategic perspective in a structural form, saying that it would further
deepen bilateral ties.
Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia
have been making efforts to find a credible solution to Syrian crisis and
following Putin's decision to withdraw forces and end hostilities in Syria,
they sought to speed up efforts to make Syria a peaceful nation.
Apparently, Turkey's Islamist-rooted Justice and Development
Party (AKP) government has been propping the pro-Islam religious group Muslim
Brotherhood to a role of power broker in future Syrian government while Saudi
Arabia is concerned about the prospect of raising profile for political
Islamists who may want to extend their influence to the kingdom eventually.
Riyadh wants Turkey to help muting the effects of political Islamists in Saudi
Erdogan's visit follows a period of tension
between the two regional powers over Egypt, with Turkey backing deposed Muslim
Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi and the Saudis backing his successor Abdel
Fattah el-Sisi. In turn, Turkey's relationship with Egypt soured after the
Egyptian military ousted Morsi. Cairo accused Turkey of interference and
supporting the Brotherhood, which Egypt designated as a terrorist organisation
in December of the same year.
The fact that Turkey and Egypt, two heavyweights in the region, are at odds
each other has complicated Saudi Arabia's initiatives in the Middle East.
Turkey is keen to foster better business and trade ties with Saudi Arabia.
Turkish businesses eye defense and housing markets in Saudi Arabia while
Ankara tries to woo Saudi investors to Turkey. The Turkish leader said his
government would like to see Saudi investment, which currently stood at some
two billion US dollars, to go up to 10 billion and later 20 in stages. The
trade volume between the two countries was 5.9 billion dollars in 2012 and
came down to 5.6 billion in 2015. According to the latest available trade data
from the Turkish government, the volume has only slightly increased by 2.3
percent in January-February period, comparing to the same period last year.
Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia has led an initiative to form
34-nation Islamic military alliance against radical terrorist groups. Turkey
said it would join the alliance. Pro-government media run stories praising the
alliance, dubbing the initiative as rivaling to the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization military alliance (NATO). In February, the Turkish military along
with some 20 countries took part in a region-wide military exercise led by
Saudi Arabia. Riyadh also sent several F-15 fighter jets to join a military
drill run by Turkish Air Force in the province of Konya in central Turkey.
Against the backdrop of Iran's rising influence in the region,
especially in the Gulf, Riyadh has been lobbying Sunni nations to jointly
thwart what it calls Iran's regional ambitions and expansionist policies. In
January, Turkey sided with Saudi Arabia when Riyadh had a diplomatic rift with
Tehran over the execution of an influential Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia and
the orchestrated attacks on the Saudi missions in Iran. Both Ankara and Riyadh
are concerned about developments in Iraq and Yemen where sectarian conflicts
pose a spillover risks to both Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia are among regional countries that
signed on to the USA-led coalition against the threat of Islamic State (IS)
militant group. In February, four Saudi warplanes were deployed at Turkey's
Incirlik air base in southern province Adana near Syrian border to take part
in aerial missions against the ISIS.
Saudi Arabia and
Turkey have emerged as two of the most stable countries following the Arab
uprisings and, with ongoing fighting in neighbouring countries; both are keen
to maintain regional stability. While Saudi Arabia relies on its ability to
maintain allies through financial support and on its leading status among the
Gulf countries to preserve stability, such as providing army troops to quell
the protests in Bahrain, Turkey's position has favored other forces, offering
support to the Islamist parties which entered politics following the overthrow
of dictatorships in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.
Contemporary relations between European Turkey and West Asian Saudi Arabia
appear to be on a major high. Recep Tayyip Erdogan's chief advisor Ibrahim
Kalin said relations between the two are at a commendable level but far from
reflecting the true potential but knowing the critical ramifications of
regional conflicts for peace and security in the entire region, both Islamic
leaders try to bridge the gap lying between them. Highlighting the crises
across the region, Kalin said that Turkey and Saudi Arabia had agreed to
expand their bilateral relations which he said ''will go a long way in
confronting the current crises.
Where the countries' foreign policies have aligned, they have sought to head a
Sunni front against what they perceive to be the threat of Iranian hegemony by
seeking out alliances with other countries in the region and supporting the
Syrian opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.
Saudi kingdom, on the other hand, has offered Egypt millions of dollars in
aid. Even after damning leaks appeared to reveal Sisi ridiculing his Gulf
backers and saying he despised them, King Salman told Saudi media that
bilateral ties were ''stronger than any attempt to disturb them.'' But in
recent weeks there has been speculation of a shift in Saudi's policy towards
the Brotherhood after the country's foreign minister Saud bin Faisal said
publicly that Riyadh has ''no problem'' with the group – which has raised
bigger questions of Saudi's greater policy towards Egypt.
Saudi commentators also highlighting the warming overtures,
follow Erdogan's first visit as president, a position he took over last
August, to Saudi Arabia where he met with the new Saudi monarch King Salman,
successor of the late King Abdullah.
The King, who
visits Egypt before heading to Turkey, has been reportedly endeavoring to mend
the fences between Ankara and Cairo. Diplomatic ties between Turkey and Egypt
broke off after the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 amid
popular protests. Turkey says it does not recognize regime of President Abdel
Fattah el-Sisi as legitimate.
After wrapping his
official visit in Ankara, the Saudi monarch will fly to Istanbul for the 13th
Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit. Although it is not
officially confirmed yet, Turkish media claimed Sameh Shoukry, Egypt's foreign
minister, may come for the OIC summit in Turkey, marking a first official step
between the two.