Dis­ap­pear­ance of writer strains Turkey- Saudi ties

The Republican Herald - - NATION/ WORLD - BY JON GAMBRELL

DUBAI, United Arab Emi­rates — At first glance, the dis­ap­pear­ance of jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi from the Saudi Con­sulate in Is­tan­bul is just the lat­est cri­sis to strain re­la­tions be­tween the king­dom and Turkey in the wake of the Arab Spring in 2011.

Yet, like else­where in the re­gion, things are more com­pli­cated than they ini­tially ap­pear.

Saudis and other Gulf Arabs still flock to Is­tan­bul and pur­chase prop­erty through­out a coun­try viewed as hav­ing one foot in Europe and an­other in the Mideast. The king­dom re­mains one of the top for­eign in­vestors in Turkey, pro­vid­ing cru­cial hard cur­rency amid a cri­sis in the Turk­ish lira.

Mean­while, Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan’s sup­port of Is­lamist groups clashes with the stance of Gulf sheikhdoms that view groups like the Mus­lim Brother­hood as threats to their hereditary rule.

Er­do­gan also main­tains

links to Iran, Saudi Ara­bia’s Mideast archri­val, and Qatar, a na­tion now boy­cotted by the king­dom and three other Arab na­tions over a po­lit­i­cal dis­pute.

All this to­gether re­quires Ankara to main­tain a care­ful bal­anc­ing act.

“Turkey is at the cen­ter of an eco­nomic storm and has very few friends to turn to for help. Ankara- Wash­ing­ton re­la­tions are at an all- time

low. Turkey- Rus­sia re­la­tions are vul­ner­a­ble and re­la­tions with Euro­peans are com­pli­cated,” wrote Gonul Tol, the di­rec­tor of the Turkey pro­gram at the Wash­ing­ton­based Mid­dle East In­sti­tute.

“To avoid fur­ther prob

lems, Turkey has been try­ing hard not to fur­ther strain ties with Saudi Ara­bia,” Tol said.

That hasn’t been helped by the Oct. 2 dis­ap­pear­ance of Khashoggi, a con­trib­u­tor to The Wash­ing­ton Post whose writ­ing helped in­ter­pret to the West the opaque machi­na­tions of the Saudi royal court.

Khashoggi wrote col­umns crit­i­cal of Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, the 33- year- old son of King Sal­man, and had

lived in the United States over the last year in a self­im­posed ex­ile.

Turk­ish of­fi­cials fear a Saudi team of 15 men killed and dis­mem­bered the writer at the con­sulate. They have yet to pub­lish any ev­i­dence of him be­ing slain, though sur­veil­lance footage around the con­sulate shows a con­voy of ve­hi­cles with diplo­matic

li­cense plates leav­ing the Saudi Con­sulate for the con­sul’s home in Is­tan­bul a lit­tle un­der two hours af­ter Khashoggi’s ar­rival.

Re­ports in Turk­ish me­dia and the Post sug­gest Turk­ish of­fi­cials have both video and au­dio of the killing, some­thing The As­so­ci­ated Press has been un­able to con­firm.

Saudi Ara­bia mean­while main­tains that the al­le­ga­tions against it are “base

less,” but has yet to of­fer any proof that Khashoggi sim­ply walked out of the con­sulate and dis­ap­peared into Is­tan­bul, de­spite his fi­ancée wait­ing for him out­side.

The cri­sis comes at a sen­si­tive time for Er­do­gan. The Turk­ish lira has de­pre­ci­ated by close to 40 per­cent against the U. S. dol­lar since the start of the year. In­fla­tion has spiked. Part of that rests on the mas­sive loans taken out by the coun­try dur­ing a con­struc­tion boom un­der Er­do­gan, which helped fuel his pop­u­lar­ity.

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