DThe Turkish President obviously wanted to avoid the impression that he could travel to Saudi Arabia as a petitioner. In any case, the pro-government media extensively covered the gift that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan brought to Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman: an electric car from the Turkish brand Togg, one of Erdoğan’s favorite prestige projects. The Crown Prince did him the favor and drove him back to the hotel in Jeddah.
But Bin Salman was more interested in another of Erdoğan’s souvenirs. As the Saudi defense minister announced, Riyadh signed two contracts to purchase and license production of Turkish reconnaissance and combat drones in order to “bolster its defense and production capacities”. The head of the armaments company involved, Haluk Bayraktar, spoke on Twitter of the “largest defense and aviation export contract in the history of the Republic of Turkey”. Nothing was announced about the volume of the two agreements.
Is Turkey selling a port?
For Saudi Arabia, it’s about breaking Iran’s regional leadership in combat drone manufacturing. For Turkey, the Bayraktar drones, which have already been used successfully in the Ukraine, are increasingly becoming a strategic bestseller. In addition to five ministers and the head of the secret service, the Turkish delegation also included the head of the private security company Sadat, a former brigadier general.
It was almost forgotten that the Turkish President was hoping for direct investments and financial aid from his trip to the Gulf States of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in order to plug the holes in his national budget. To this end, he had sent his Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek, Central Bank Governor Hafize Gaye Erkan and his deputy in charge of economy Cevdet Yılmaz ahead.
Before leaving, Erdoğan had said the three countries would be given an “opportunity to acquire certain assets from Turkey”. The opposition has already speculated that the state could sell off its silverware. According to a report by the Bloomberg agency, negotiations are under way to sell the operating rights for the Alsancak port in Izmir.
Lira continues to lose value
The recent increases in gasoline and sales taxes show how much the president is under economic pressure. The national currency fell to a new low on Tuesday. The lira has lost 30 percent of its value since the presidential election six weeks ago. The central bank’s next interest rate decision on Thursday could provide an indication of how far Erdoğan feels compelled to deviate from his low interest rate policy.
The magnificent reception that the Saudi Crown Prince gave the Turkish President would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. After the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Erdoğan had positioned himself as a harsh critic of Bin Salman. Last year, however, a Turkish court transferred the murder trial to the Saudi judiciary.
Shortly thereafter, Erdoğan traveled to Riyadh. The economic crisis in his own country had also prompted the Turkish president to improve the tense relations with the United Arab Emirates. He is visiting the country this Wednesday at the end of his trip to the Gulf. On Tuesday, the President traveled to Qatar, one of his closest allies.