In change of tone, Turkey welcomes Khashoggi trial in Saudi Arabia

Turkish Presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın has said that Turkey welcomes the Khashoggi trial in Saudi Arabia. "They had a court. Trials have been held. They made a decision so we respect that decision," Kalın said.

Duvar English - Reuters

Turkish Presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın has said that Turkey welcomes the trial into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi held in Saudi Arabia, as he commented on Ankara's relations with Riyadh. 

Turkey has been seeking to improve ties with Gulf Arab heavyweight Saudi Arabia, which were thrown into crisis by the 2018 killing in Istanbul of Khashoggi by a Saudi hit squad.

Last year Saudi businessmen endorsed an unofficial boycott of Turkish goods in response to what they called hostility from Ankara, which has slashed the value of trade by 98%.

"We will seek ways to repair the relationship with a more positive agenda with Saudi Arabia," Kalın said, adding that he hoped the boycott could be lifted.

In a marked change of tone, he welcomed the trial in Saudi Arabia which last year jailed eight people for between seven and 20 years for Khashoggi's murder.

At the time Ankara said the verdict fell short of expectations and urged Saudi authorities to cooperate with Turkey where a trial in absentia of 20 Saudi officials is taking place - though only three sessions have been held since July.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in 2018 that the order to kill Khashoggi came from the "highest levels" of the Saudi government, and a U.S. intelligence assessment released in February this year found Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had approved the killing - a charge Saudi Arabia rejects.

"They had a court. Trials have been held," Kalın said. "They made a decision so we respect that decision."

'Better ties with Cairo could boost Libya peace efforts'

Turning to the rapprochement with Egypt, Kalın said the talks with Cairo next week could forge renewed cooperation between the estranged regional powers and help efforts to end the war in Libya.

Relations have been strained since Egypt's army toppled a democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood president close to Turkey in 2013 in what Ankara said was a military coup.

Recently, however, Turkey has begun working to rebuild ties with Egypt and Gulf Arab states, trying to overcome differences which have left Ankara increasingly isolated in the Arab world.

Intelligence chiefs, as well as foreign ministers of both countries, have been in contact, and a Turkish diplomatic mission will visit Egypt in early May, Kalın said. 

"Given the realities on the ground I think it's in the interests of both countries and the region to normalize relations with Egypt," he said.

In a gesture to Cairo last month, Turkey asked Egyptian opposition television channels operating on its territory to moderate criticism of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, the former military chief who toppled Morsi.

Egypt welcomed the move but has been publicly cautious about Turkish calls for better ties between the two countries which have also supported rival sides in Libya's conflict.

"Rapprochement with Egypt...will certainly help the security situation in Libya because we fully understand that Egypt has a long border with Libya and that may sometimes pose a security threat for Egypt," Kalın said.

He said Turkey would discuss security in Libya, where a United Nations-backed transitional government took over last month, with Egypt and other countries.

But despite a U.N. call for all foreign forces to leave the country, he indicated that Turkish military officers and allied Syrian fighters would be staying.

"We have an agreement that is still holding there with the Libyan government," he said, referring to a 2019 accord that paved the way for decisive Turkish intervention in support of the Tripoli-based government.