President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to visit Saudi Arabia following a Turkish court’s decision to hand the case of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder over to Riyadh, whose ties with Ankara have been strained in recent years.
According to Al-Monitor President Erdoğan’s official trip to the kingdom will take place in Ramadan.
In a move that attracted international condemnation and dashed hopes about the possibility of justice for Khashoggi, a Turkish court last week confirmed a halt of the trial in absentia of 26 suspects linked to the murder of Khashoggi and its transfer to Riyadh.
The 59-year-old journalist was killed inside the Saudi Consulate General in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 in a gruesome murder that shocked the world.
To Riyadh’s dismay Turkey pressed ahead with the Khashoggi case, and President Erdoğan had at the time said the order to kill him came from the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.
A Turkish court began the trial in 2020 with relations tense between the two Sunni Muslim regional powers.
But with Turkey desperate for investment to help pull it out of an economic crisis, Ankara has sought to heal the rift with Riyadh.
The court decision comes almost a week after Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said he would greenlight a Turkish prosecutor’s request to hand the case over to Saudi Arabia, at the demand of the latter. In addition, Bozdağ said on Monday that the transfer of the case was in compliance with the law.
Five people were sentenced to death by the kingdom over Khashoggi’s killing, but a Saudi court in September 2020 overturned the verdicts while handing down prison sentences of up to 20 years to eight unnamed defendants following secretive legal proceedings.
In the years that followed, Saudi Arabia sought to unofficially put pressure on Turkey’s economy, with a boycott of Turkish imports.
Last year Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu visited Riyadh to repair fences with the kingdom.
The transfer of the case to Riyadh removes the last obstacle to normalizing ties.
Erdoğan has sought to improve ties with regional rivals including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in the face of increasing diplomatic isolation that has caused foreign investment to dry up — particularly from the West.
In January he said he was planning a trip to Saudi Arabia as the economy was going through a turbulent period.