SAUDI KING VISITS TURKEY TO BOOST TIES, COORDINATE REGIONAL POLICES

ANKARA, Turkey, - The Saudi Arabian King, Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, is on an official visit to Turkey today, Apr 11 until Apr 13, to discuss a range of issues from bilateral to global matters.

"In meetings, to be held within the framework of the visit, in addition to bilateral relations, both regional and global issues will be dealt with," said a statement, released by the Turkish president's office.

The visit, the first, after the King was crowned in Jan, 2015, comes on the eve of another round of peace talks on Syria, in Geneva this week.

Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia remain staunchly opposed to Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, and support rebel factions that have been fighting a five-year battle, to oust the Damascus government.

"Turkey and Saudi Arabia are regional heavyweights that pursue, by and large, similar policies, albeit with some differences," Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, a professor of international relations at Gazi University, said.

"The visit may serve an opportunity to better coordinate some of the policies between Ankara and Riyadh, with respect to policies in the region," he added.

Both Ankara and Riyadh want Assad's departure, as part of the peace deal, that will follow the agreement on cessation of hostilities in Syria.

However, they differ on who should be replacing Assad in the post-conflict era.

Turkey's Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, has been propping the religious group, Muslim Brotherhood, to a role of power-broker, in future Syrian government, while Saudi Arabia is concerned about the prospect of raising profile for political Islamists, who may want to extend their influence to the kingdom eventually.

After wrapping his official visit in Ankara, the Saudi monarch will fly to Istanbul, for the 13th Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia are among regional countries that signed on to the U.S.-led coalition, against the threat of the Daesh militant group.

In Feb, four Saudi war planes were deployed at Turkey's Incirlik air base, in the southern province of Adana, near the Syrian border, to take part in aerial missions against the Daesh.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia has led an initiative to form the 34-nation Islamic military alliance, against radical terrorist groups. Turkey said it would join the alliance.

"The most important item in the King's bag is the Islamic Army and the fight against terror in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon," Star daily wrote.

In Feb, the Turkish military, along with some 20 countries, took part in a region-wide military exercise, led by Saudi Arabia. Riyadh also sent several F-15 fighter jets, to join a military drill run by the Turkish Air Force, in the province of Konya, in central Turkey.

Against the backdrop of Iran's rising influence in the region, especially in the Gulf, Riyadh has been lobbying Sunni nations, to jointly thwart what it calls, Iran's regional ambitions and expansionist policies.

The fact that Turkey and Egypt, two heavyweights in the region, are at odds with each other, has complicated Saudi Arabia's initiatives in the Middle East.

The King, who was on a trip to Egypt before heading to Turkey, has been reportedly endeavouring to mend the fences between Ankara and Cairo.

Although it is not officially confirmed yet, Turkish media claimed, Sameh Shoukry, Egypt's foreign minister, may come for the OIC summit in Turkey, marking a first official step between the two.

Diplomatic ties between Turkey and Egypt broke off, after the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, amid popular protests. Turkey says it does not recognise administration of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, as legitimate.

In Jan, Turkey sided with Saudi Arabia when Riyadh had a diplomatic rift with Tehran, over the execution of an influential Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia, and the orchestrated attacks on the Saudi missions in Iran.

Both Ankara and Riyadh are concerned about developments in Iraq and Yemen, where sectarian conflicts pose a spillover risks to both Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

During the visit of the Saudi King, a formal agreement, establishing a high-level strategic council, a mechanism for intergovernmental conference, is expected to be signed by leaders of both sides.

The idea was first proposed during Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Saudi Arabia in Dec, and was further discussed by visiting Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, in Riyadh, in Jan.

Davutoglu underlined that, the agreement will frame the shared strategic perspective in a structural form, saying that it would further deepen bilateral ties.

Turkey is also keen to foster better business and trade ties with Saudi Arabia. Turkish businesses eye defence and housing markets in Saudi Arabia, while Ankara tries to woo Saudi investors to Turkey.

The Turkish leader said, his government would like to see Saudi investment, which currently stood at some two billion U.S. dollars, to go up to 10 billion and later 20, in stages.

The trade volume between the two countries was 5.9 billion dollars in 2012, and came down to 5.6 billion in 2015.

According to the latest available trade data from the Turkish government, the volume has only slightly increased by 2.3 percent in the Jan-Feb period, comparing to the same period last year.

Source: Name News Network