New Saudi king meets Turkey leader amid thaw in relations

AP News
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Posted: Mar 02, 2015 12:50 PM
New Saudi king meets Turkey leader amid thaw in relations

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — In a meeting that marks a thaw in diplomatic ties, King Salman and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday discussed regional issues such as the ongoing war in Syria, Iran nuclear talks and turmoil in Yemen.

Relations between the two countries had become tense under the late Saudi King Abdullah, largely due to Erdogan's stinging criticism of Egypt's military-led ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates branded Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group a terrorist organization, while Turkey and its ally Qatar welcomed Brotherhood figures seeking refuge.

Senior Saudi royals and top Turkish ministers, including the deputy prime minister, foreign minister and minister of economy took part in the talks in Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency reported without disclosing further details. The king has held similar talks aimed at sharing his policy views with a number of world leaders since ascending to the throne in January.

A day earlier, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi met in Riyadh with the newly enthroned Saudi king. In an interview with Al-Arabiya news channel prior to his visit, el-Sissi — who was Egypt's military chief during Morsi's ouster and led the crackdown against his Islamist supporters — said Turkey "needed to halt its interference in Egypt."

Despite Saudi Arabia's support for el-Sissi, the kingdom and Turkey agree on a number of regional issues, particularly Syria. Both are supporters of Sunni rebels in Syria seeking to topple Iranian-backed President Bashar Assad. Saudi Arabia is part of the U.S.-led coalition striking Islamic State group fighters in Iraq and Syria, but the kingdom has said the aim of its airstrikes is also to empower Syrian rebels against Assad.

Erdogan was last in Saudi Arabia in January for Abdullah's funeral. Before meeting with Salman, he performed the Islamic pilgrimage in Mecca and prayed at the first mosque built by the Prophet Muhammad in Medina.