The “surprise” visit appeared to be a first step on the part of Ankara in order to prepare for the rounds of “difficult dialogue” with Riyadh, after years of worsening the relationship between them, and although it was already over the course of two days, its circumstances were not “promising” and according to what was hoped for, according to observers. Especially since it was not crowned with a press conference between Cavusoglu and his Saudi counterpart, Faisal bin Farhan.
Also, the statements that came out of it were “scarce” and their exit was limited to the Turkish side only, while no clear details were issued about what was going on behind the scenes by Riyadh. It adhered to the policy of not rushing immediately to such a step, for reasons that may relate to the accumulated stalemate of relations in the past years, against the backdrop of several pending and problematic files.
In statements to the semi-official Anadolu Agency, Cavusoglu announced after his meeting with Bin Farhan that Turkey and Saudi Arabia “will continue dialogue to address their outstanding differences.”
The Turkish minister added, “I would like to thank my brother Prince Faisal for his invitation and hospitality. We held a very open and frank meeting, and we dealt with some problems in our relations, and we also discussed how to enhance cooperation in bilateral relations and regional issues. We decided to continue the dialogue and invite him to Turkey.”
On the other hand, Bin Farhan did not make any statement about the outcomes of his meeting with Çavuşo وإلىlu, and besides, the media close to or supported by Riyadh did not mention this, and the news they published was limited to the arrival of Cavusoglu to Saudi Arabia and his meeting with his Saudi counterpart only.
Turkey’s relations with Saudi Arabia had been strained due to Ankara’s support for Qatar in a conflict between the two Gulf countries, and then the tension escalated to the stage of crisis when a Saudi team assassinated the writer and journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was opposed to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the Kingdom.
Following these developments, relations worsened further, and reached its climax to the point of a commercial boycott of Turkish products in Saudi Arabia, which negatively affected the proportion of Turkish exports to the Kingdom’s territory, since October of last year.
Saudi writer and political analyst Mubarak Al-Ati believes that Saudi Arabia is showing a “disciplined openness towards re-improving its relations with Turkey, coordinating its steps with its brothers in Egypt.”
Al-Aati continues in statements to Al-Hurra: “Riyadh, in its calculated steps on the Turkish track, is also monitoring the Egyptian-Turkish reconciliation path, which was launched in Cairo through exploratory talks, headed by the two foreign ministers, to achieve tangible results in favor of Cairo.”
Riyadh dealt with the Turkish minister’s visit as the first visit of a Turkish official to Saudi Arabia, “since Ankara’s abuse of the two countries’ relations after the incident of writer and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
The visit was also considered, according to the Saudi political analyst, as “contributing to melting the ice and helping to chart the course of talks between the two countries to discuss all pending issues, when Turkey presents real steps that prove the desire to end all Arab defeats against Erdogan, including the file of terrorism and the file of interference in countries.” And Arab issues. ”
From a broader view at the regional level as a whole, it may be difficult to prove that the steps of rapprochement between Turkey and Egypt are related to those related to the Turkish-Saudi rapprochement almost certainly based on official data.
But this equation sees Saudi and Turkish experts and analysts closely linked, especially since the opening of the two files by Ankara came simultaneously, and with steps progressing to Cairo at times and to Riyadh at other times.
While the general scene imposed by the past weeks indicates a “breakthrough” on the level of Turkish-Egyptian relations after the recent diplomatic visit hosted by Egypt, it goes in another direction to a “negative momentum” that marred steps to resolve the pending issues on the road to Turkish-Saudi relations.
According to the Saudi analyst, Mubarak Al-Ati, Riyadh “is moving in a balanced, non-hasty steps, desiring the brothers in Egypt to end their pending files with Ankara, so that it can also discuss its pending files.”
He clarifies that the above “confirms the existence of joint and high coordination between Riyadh, Cairo, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, so that the train of Arab-Turkish reconciliation can be placed on a safe and fruitful path as well. Riyadh proves that it is the leader of all peace tracks in the region.”
“The relationship with Saudi Arabia is special.”
In the meantime, all estimates indicate that Saudi Arabia wants to open a new page with Turkey, but it is waiting, according to the general scene, before taking a major step in this regard, and is waiting for the clarity of the new Turkish trends, and whether they are serious or just “repositioning the discourse.”
Saudi Arabia also depends on any move towards Ankara on the results of the Turkish-Egyptian talks, which was previously confirmed by the Saudi analyst, and that any progress on the Turkish-Egyptian track will reflect positively on the Turkish-Saudi track and vice versa.
From the details of the above, the outlook for the next stage remains ambiguous, in terms of the mechanism by which Ankara and Riyadh will move to restore relations as they were previously.
What increases the ambiguity is that the outstanding issues between Turkey and Egypt do not intersect much with Saudi Arabia, such as the Eastern Mediterranean file, for example, or the Libyan file, so that the common denominator remains the case of “polarization”, meaning the alliances that have been established in recent years and fueled by the Gulf crisis and its repercussions at the regional level. .
Commenting on the above, the researcher on Turkish affairs, Muhannad Hafezoglu, says: “Although there are common denominators between the Turkish openness to Egypt and Saudi Arabia due to the new Turkish foreign approach, relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have their own specifics for several considerations.”
In general, the foreign policy of Riyadh is “calm,” dominated by “calm in the media, if you like.”
Hafizoglu added to the Al-Hurra website: “For example, but not limited to, the Saudi-Iranian meetings under Iraqi sponsorship, and we do not forget the Saudi talks with Turkey to buy Turkish drones and many others.”
The Turkish researcher explains that the recent visit of Cavusoglu “did not gain a media momentum like the one that took place with Cairo, because the movements between the Egyptian and Turkish side took place several months ago, and because Cairo made many statements in the words of some of its officials over a period of several months.”
From another point, the visit to Cairo is distinguished by the fact that Egypt had demanded several files before the arrival of the Turkish delegation, on top of which is the presence of the “Muslim Brotherhood” in Turkey, the Turkish presence in Libya and many others.
As for the visit of the Turkish foreign minister to Saudi Arabia and what preceded it, it was not characterized by the aforementioned data, rather it went to other paths.
“Listen to what Riyadh wants”
Among the tracks that characterize the visit of the Turkish foreign minister to Riyadh, according to the researcher Hafezoglu, “the Palestinian movement against the Israeli aggression on Jerusalem, and the military developments that coincided with the visit.”
In addition to that, “the visit is to confirm the serious Turkish desire to open up to Riyadh on the one hand, and to listen to what Saudi Arabia has of controversial points and to know the political and psychological climate there.”
The Turkish researcher excludes the idea that the Saudi-Turkish meeting had failed, and thus Ankara’s outstretched hand remained “empty” in exchange for the “coldness” shown by Riyadh.
In his view, “some saying that the visit aims to call on Saudi Arabia for a popular boycott against Turkish products to stop,” this is far from reading the political reality.
The reason for this is that this boycott “is some of the effects of the disagreement between the two sides. In politics, resolving disputes is the origin of international relations, and then these effects will disappear automatically, or at the very least, it may be discussed later.”
The Turkish researcher believes that “the visit paid off and achieved its goal, which was announced by Cavusoglu by saying that it was transparent and frank and that the two sides decided to continue the dialogue.”
Sources close to the Turkish government have previously revealed, in recent days, that Cavusoglu’s visit had planned to discuss the recent Saudi orders to close 8 Turkish schools operating in Riyadh and other provinces, coinciding with the end of the 2020-2021 academic year.
These orders include Turkish International Schools in Riyadh, Jeddah, Tabuk, Dammam, Taif, Abha, Makkah and Madinah, and they were announced seven days ago, according to the semi-official Anadolu Agency.
In addition to the aforementioned file, Cavusoglu carried in his pocket according to Turkish sources the details of the first steps to normalize his country’s relations with Saudi Arabia, and a number of pending files, whether political or those related to the boycott of Turkish products.