News Analysis: Turkey's president playing balance in journalist Khashoggi case

Source: Xinhua| 2018-10-27 00:16:12|Editor: yan
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by Burak Akinci

ANKARA, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is playing a political balancing act over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which could help revamp sensitive ties with Saudi Arabia, said local analysts.

"Turkey is engaged in a cool-minded and rational policy regarding the Khashoggi case, avoiding to make it a bilateral issue between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, rather preferring to situate it on an a global platform," Ahmet K. Han, professor on international relations at Istanbul Altinbas University, told Xinhua.

The expert underlined that Turkey is willing to use this dramatic case that has sparked international outrage and condemnation to better its chilly ties with the Saudi regime.


"Turkey will try to move its relations with Saudi Arabia on a more favorable platform and seek to unlock a door of cooperation" with Riyadh, insisted Han.

Recent media reports suggested that Turkey would use Khashoggi's killing as political leverage in order to change the balance of power in Middle East politics in Ankara's favor.

Han sees these analyses as "pretentious", explaining however that President Erdogan who used a respectful and uncritical narrative towards the Saudi King Salman, would like to see his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, widely considered as the most powerful figure in the kingdom, removed from the sign of succession.

"This would not make Turkey unhappy. This is very clear," said Han.

An argument shared by Mideast expert Oytun Orhan who told Xinhua that Turkey is "very irritated" by the path taken by the crown prince to undermine it's influence in the region.

The "planned" killing of Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate in early October has put a strain on Turkey's relations with Saudi Arabia.

"Turkey would want to have the crown prince dismissed or see his influence diminished in some way because he is considered responsible for the anti-Turkish strategy in the kingdom," said researcher Orhan from the Ankara-based Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

Until recently, Turkey had been at pains to maintain good ties with Saudi Arabia, while also keeping friendly relations with the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, an organization Khashoggi supported.

President Erdogan's close relations to the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the most important political movements in the Arab world, always played an important role in ties between Ankara and Riyadh. The Saudis disapproved of Turkey's relationship with the Brotherhood.

During a visit to Egypt in early 2018, Saudi Crown Prince accused Turkey of supporting Iran and Islamist organizations, and blamed the country for working towards building an Arab caliphate.

Turkey for its part severely criticized Saudi Arabia when it, together with several other Arab states, imposed an economic embargo on Qatar in 2017. But while Turkey was helping Qatar fight the embargo, it was also trying to keep tensions with the Saudi kingdom to a minimum.


Observers believe that Erdogan has the upper hand in the Khashoggi case against Saudi Arabia, seizing an opportunity to weaken a man hated by the Turkish pro-government press's who labeled him as an "enemy" of Turkey.

Turkey appears to have skillfully managed the Khasoggi case to its advantage, by putting pressure on Saudi Arabia, but also by using the crisis as a means to remake its bruised relations with the United States and the western world in general since the failed coup in 2016.

But while Turkey is holding the cards, its leader seems also mindful of not provoking Riyadh, especially at a time when the Turkish economy is vulnerable after a currency meltdown in the summer amid a diplomatic spat with the United States.

Erdogan and the Saudi crown prince held their first telephone conversation on Wednesday since the Khashoggi affair erupted, according to Turkish presidential sources.

Nevertheless, whether the Turkish strongman's strategy will work or not depends entirely on the attitude of the United States, Saudi Arabia's biggest support.

U.S. President Donald Trump has made it clear that his country's close cooperation with Riyadh will go on unabated despite this crisis.