Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who had strained relations with Saudi Arabia until recently due to the murder of a Saudi journalist in Turkey, gifted Turkey’s first domestically produced electric car, Togg, to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Erdoğan began a three-day tour of the Gulf countries on Monday that began with a visit to Saudi Arabia, where he met with Mohammed at the Al-Salam Royal Palace in Jeddah.
Following talks with Mohammed during which several defense and business deals were signed, Erdoğan presented a white TOGG to the crown prince in the palace courtyard.
Mohammed later drove Erdoğan to his hotel in his new car.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan presented the gift of a car to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the Turkish president’s visit to the kingdom.
The model, called Togg, is Turkey’s first domestically produced electric car pic.twitter.com/6Q0sQ9p5vU
— The National (@TheNationalNews) July 18, 2023
Anadolu said Erdoğan gave two TOGG cars to the Saudi royal family.
Erdoğan’s gesture comes several years after he implicitly accused Mohammed of masterminding the gruesome murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in October 2018.
Deutsche Welle’s Turkey correspondent Julia Hahn pointed to the change in Erdoğan’s stance in a tweet on Tuesday, linking it to Turkey’s desperation for investment due to its ailing economy.
A few years ago, Turkish President Erdogan vowed he would not allow those responsible for the murder of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi to escape justice. Now Erdogan is back in Saudi Arabia with expensive gifts to seek trade and investment opportunities for Turkey's ailing economy. https://t.co/QDeUhmr2WI
— Julia Hahn (@juliahahntv) July 18, 2023
Turkey infuriated the Saudis by pressing ahead with an investigation into the murder of The Washington Post columnist, which Erdoğan said was ordered at the “highest levels” of the Saudi government, in a tacit reference to Mohammed. US intelligence officials also determined he had approved the murder of Khashoggi — something Riyadh denies.
Saudi Arabia responded by unofficially putting pressure on Turkey’s economy through a boycott of key Turkish imports.
However, relations have improved between the two countries in the wake of the economic challenges faced by Turkey.
Erdoğan visited Saudi Arabia in April 2021. His trip came as Turkey was facing an economic crisis fueled by the collapse of its currency and soaring inflation ahead of this year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
In a controversial decision in April 2022, an İstanbul court confirmed a halt of the trial in absentia of 26 suspects linked to the killing of Khashoggi and its transfer to Riyadh, a decision that angered rights groups.
The court’s decision came a week after Mohammed paid a visit to Turkey as Ankara and Riyadh moved on from the murder of Khashoggi.
Erdoğan’s change of attitude concerning the Khashoggi murder was associated with high inflation and a cost-of-living crisis a year before a presidential election as he sought backing and investment from Gulf countries.
Five people were handed death sentences by the kingdom over Khashoggi’s killing, but a Saudi court in September 2020 overturned the verdicts and sentenced eight unnamed defendants to prison following secretive legal proceedings.