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Saudi crown prince to visit Turkey next week for first time since Khashoggi murder

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will visit Ankara next week as relations improve
The Saudi crown prince, right, held a one-on-one meeting with the Turkish president, left, in Jeddah in April (AFP)

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will visit Turkey next week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said, in the latest sign of warming relations between the two countries.

The visit, announced by Erdogan on Friday, will be the crown prince's first visit to Turkey since the brutal killing of Middle East Eye columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

A US resident, Khashoggi was assassinated and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018, after going there to get paperwork for his upcoming marriage. His remains have never been found.

"The crown prince will visit Wednesday, we will welcome him," Erdogan told reporters after Friday prayers. "We will find the opportunity to discuss how to elevate bilateral ties to a much higher level."

According to the AFP news agency, the two countries are also expected sign several agreements during the trip.

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The rapprochement between the two countries has gained momentum after Turkey ended its trial of 26 suspects linked to Khashoggi's murder and transferred the case to the kingdom in early April. 

Turkey had angered Saudi Arabia by vigorously pursuing the case at the time, opening an investigation and briefing international media about the lurid details of the murder.

Erdogan previously said that the "highest levels" of the Saudi government ordered the killing, although he never blamed Mohammed bin Salman directly.

Saudi Arabia responded at the time with an unofficial boycott of Turkish imports, putting pressure on Turkey’s economy.

In late April, Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia for the first time in five years where he embraced the crown prince, signalling that the previous cold relationship between the two countries is now over.

The Turkish president's efforts to improve relations with Saudi Arabia, as well as the United Arab Emirates, come as Ankara faces a major economic crisis, with official inflation at 73.5 percent and a presidential election slated for next year.

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