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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman makes first Turkey visit since Khashoggi murder

After the visit, which started with a welcoming ceremony, a one-on-one meeting will be held between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the crown prince.

The trip comes at a time when the West and the wider Middle East are trying to mend their relations with the oil-rich kingdom in an effort to alleviate the financial strains caused by the pandemic and exorbitantly high energy prices caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In April, Erdogan met with the crown prince in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, which ended years of diplomatic standoff between the two countries.

The crown prince, known as MBS, is the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia. A wave of repression against Saudi dissidents, which resulted in Khashoggi being killed by a 15-man death squad, has strained relations between Riyadh and many Western states and Turkey.

However, even when then-US President Donald Trump said that he believed the CIA had approved the murder at the consulate – he stood by MBS – a cornerstone of Trump’s Middle East policy.

According to Turkish official sources, a Saudi forensic expert with bones dismembered the body of Khashoggi, who was killed in the Istanbul consulate in October 2018. MBS denied any involvement in the murder and made international headlines with striking details about the murder.

Erdogan strongly opposed the murder and launched an investigation into the murder, and diplomatic relations between the two countries deteriorated.

However, the falling Turkish lira and over 70% inflation seem to have forced the Turkish President to change tactics. For months, Ankara has made suggestions to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia’s closest ally in the Gulf, to mend ties, including ending Khashoggi’s murder trial in April and transferring the case to Riyadh.

Human rights groups denounced the move, arguing it would end the case. Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, an outspoken advocate of justice for the murdered Saudi critic, said the legal team would appeal the decision.

The White House said Biden's meeting with Saudi officials next month

“The fact that he came to our country does not change the fact that he is responsible for the murder,” Cengiz said, referring to MBS’s visit on Wednesday.

During the US presidential campaign, Joe Biden pledged to turn MBS into a “pariah” over enrollment. As president, Biden refused to communicate directly with the mighty prince, choosing instead to speak with his official counterpart, King Salman.

But rising fuel prices in the past weeks It started a U-turn in Biden’s Saudi policy. Tense diplomatic relations significantly dampened US influence in forcing Riyadh to pump more oil, until Biden stepped up his diplomatic efforts and planned his first official visit to the kingdom, expected in July. He is expected to meet with MBS during the visit.

Işıl Sarıyüce from CNN contributed to this news.

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