Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan completed a trip to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, landing in Qatar on Tuesday evening after meeting with Saudi King Salman and discussing regional security.
The Saudi publication al-Arabiya reported that the King and Erdogan discussed “bilateral relations and aspects of cooperation between the two brotherly countries,” but neither Turkish nor Saudi authorities specified the details of their conversation. In addition to meeting with the Saudi King, Erdogan engaged in a 50-minute meeting with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud.
Al-Arabiya added for context that Erdogan had previously noted Turkey had made headway in the fight to liberate the Syrian town of al-Bab from the Islamic State terrorist group. The ongoing civil war in Syria and related war against the Islamic State has been of much interest to Saudi Arabia. While the Gulf nation has not directly participated in the multilateral fight, Riyadh has expressed concern over Iran’s growing influence in the region.
Speaking to the Ankara-friendly Sabah newspaper, Abdulrahman Abdullah Al Zamil, chairman of the Council of Saudi Chambers and Head of Zamil Group, said he was “optimistic” that the meeting would result in positive conclusions regarding how to diffuse the situation in Syria. Dictator Bashar al-Assad has been waging a civil war in Syria against rebels seeking a new government since 2011.
“We are both considering the interests of the people,” Al Zamil said. “Everybody is tired of it. Humans are being killed. So, the world now realizes because of this that terrorism has become distressing. So, it is in the interest of all of us to bring it to an end.”
Erdogan also sat for an interview with al-Arabiya while in Riyadh and reportedly accused Assad of one million murders and defended the Muslim Brotherhood, for which the Trump administration is currently mulling a U.S. terrorist group designation. The full interview will reportedly air later in the week.
Saudi Arabia and Turkey have long retained close contact. Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Nayef most recently visited Ankara in September to discuss both economic ties and the increasingly looming influence of Iran over the region. A month later, the Arabia Coalition issued a statement that Saudi Arabia was “committed to the fight against ISIS in Syria,” indicating Saudi Arabia may be seeking a more prominent role in resolving that conflict.
King Salman himself visited Turkey in April 2016 to discuss “regional and international issues.” One again, Syria loomed large in their talks, though at the time Erdogan also reportedly discussed the civil war in Yemen with his Saudi counterpart. The Saudi government is engaged in military activity in Yemen in favor of the legitimate government there and against the Shiite Houthi rebels who receive support from Iran.
Following his meeting with Saudi officials, Erdogan landed in Qatar Tuesday evening where he will meet Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, according to Turkish state-run publication Anadolu Agency. “The Syria crisis, developments in Yemen and the fight against terrorism will all be on the agenda of talks [in Qatar] due to their negative impact on regional stability,” Turkish Ambassador to Qatar Ahmet Demirok said of the visit. Anadolu also mentions the “ongoing crises in Syria and Iraq” as topics of discussion in the Gulf nation.