Erdogan heading to Saudi Arabia after his visit to Bahrain

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who on Sunday kicked off his three-nation Gulf tour in Bahrain, will arrive in the Saudi capital on Monday for consultations with top Saudi officials on key bilateral and regional issues.

“The visit of the Turkish president to the Kingdom comes at a significant time and context,” Turkish Ambassador Yunus Demirer told Arab News on Sunday.

“Cooperation between the Kingdom and Turkey is today more relevant and crucial than ever, taking into consideration regional and global challenges. Turkey and Saudi Arabia share identical views on regional issues such as Syria, Iraq and Yemen, as well as issues like terrorism.”

He said Erdogan will also visit Qatar during the tour. The president’s talks with Gulf leaders will include cooperation in energy, trade and investment. One of the top issues that will be discussed will be Ankara’s fight against terrorism.

“Turkey and Saudi Arabia are the main pillars for stability in the region,” said Demirer. “The depth and diversity of our relations, our joint commitment to the stability and well-being of the region, and intertwined interests lead our countries to take the relationship to higher and new levels of cooperation.”

He said the leaderships of both countries wish to enhance ties to best serve the interests of their peoples and the region. He added that the visit of Erdogan should be considered and interpreted politically within the regional context.

“The Gulf region is a priority in our external relations,” said the envoy. “We are keen to enhance our relations with Saudi Arabia and GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries in every possible field. Regarding our economic relations, they keep on developing, and we are even expecting more in the future.”

Demirer added: “I believe Saudi Vision 2030 provides an excellent opportunity and a framework for the future of our economic relations.”

He recalled the first meeting of the Turkish-Saudi Coordination Council, which was held under the co-chairmanship of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Saudi counterpart Adel Al-Jubeir in Ankara on Feb. 8.

‘Relations with Saudi Arabia to deepen’

Yusuf Cevahir, head of the Turkey-Saudi Arabia Business Council, said that the two countries should cooperate in more sectors “for the sake of mutual benefits”.

“Relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia will reach their deepest level in the coming period,” Cevahir told Anadolu Agency on Friday, adding it was important to establish joint engineering and consulting companies, and use domestically produced goods.

“Let’s do it ourselves instead of getting technical services from the West. […] Otherwise materials will continue to be procured from foreign markets in the projects carried out by the Western countries,” he said.

Cevahir also noted the rising population and housing needs in Saudi Arabia, and suggested forming a joint social housing institution like Turkey’s TOKI (Housing Development Administration) which would enhance bilateral trade volume to $10 billion annually.

“I believe there could be a significant drop in project costs with the contribution of thousands of globally known Turkish contractors and by using domestic facilities of both countries,” he said.

Cevahir also pointed out the “expensive” visa problem facing Turkish citizens.

“We have to pay 8,000 Saudi riyals [some $2,133] for a two-year business visa. We are expecting a visa fee reduction,” he said.

“Another issue is about shipments. Turkish transporters are not allowed to deliver goods within the country. This causes both loss of time at border gates and an increase in costs due to the use of third parties,” Cevahir added.

In 2016, Turkey imported $1.83 billion worth of goods from Saudi Arabia — heavily based on the plastic sector and mineral fuels — while exporting mainly electrical appliances, carpets and floor coverings worth $3.17 billion, marking a 114 percent increase compared to a decade ago.