By Arab News
Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Jeddah on Monday on the first leg of a three-state Gulf tour with business and investment at the top of the agenda.
The Turkish president is leading a massive delegation of government ministers and officials, and about 200 business leaders, investors and company owners.
He was received on Monday evening by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and met with several Saudi ministers and officials.
His visit to Saudi Arabia will be followed by trips to the UAE and Qatar, with business forums taking place in all three countries. “Our primary agenda will be joint investment and commercial activities with these countries,” Erdogan said.
Trade between Turkiye and Saudi Arabia amounted to $6.5 billion last year and reached $3.4 billion in the first half of this year. Turkiye’s trade with all the Gulf states has shot up from $1.6 billion to about $22 billion in the past 20 years. “With business forums to be organized, we will look for ways to move this figure much further,” Erdogan said.
“Turkiye will have serious investment opportunities in the defense industry, infrastructure and superstructure investments in the three countries. In addition, these countries will have the opportunity to purchase certain assets from Turkiye.”
The visit is expected to result in several agreements across sectors including energy, pharmaceuticals, technology, food, logistics, agriculture, and petrochemicals.
Turkiye’s urgent need to attract foreign direct investment and boost its international currency reserves is closely tied to this visit. Erdogan has turned to investors in the Gulf in search of external resources before November, when Ankara faces several debt repayments.
Prof. Aylin Unver Noi from Halic University in Istanbul said factors such as the Abraham Accords, the change in the US administration, the 2021 AlUla agreement, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the earthquakes in southeastern Turkiye had all contributed to the recent improvementin relations.
“Exploring new economic partnerships is an important determinant factor of this new foreign policy approach,” she told Arab News. “Last month, Aramco met 80 Turkish contractors to discuss $50 billion worth of potential projects in Saudi Arabia.”
Hakan Akbas of the commercial diplomacy firm Albright Stonebridge said Erdogan had prioritized rebuilding relations with Turkiye’s regional neighbors to attract much needed economic support for the economy beforecrucial elections in May.
“As a result of Erdogan’s visit, bilateral trade and Saudi tourism flows to Turkiye will increase. There will also be new deals for military and defense equipment procurement as the Saudi government will want to diversify suppliers beyond the US,” Akbas said.