In the latest development, the head of Saudi Arabia’s Chambers of Commerce has called for a boycott of Turkish products amid reports from merchants that animosity between Ankara and Riyadh is hindering the flow of goods between the two regional powers. The Chamber of commerce chief says that this decision has been taken in a response to continued hostility of the Turkish government.
المقاطعة لكل ماهو تركي، سواء على مستوى الاستيراد او الاستثمار او السياحة، هي مسؤولية كل سعودي "التاجر والمستهلك"، رداً على استمرار العداء من الحكومة التركية على قيادتنا وبلدنا ومواطنينا،
— عجلان العجلان (@ajlnalajlan) October 2, 2020
Saudi Arabia and Turkey have been at odds for some years over foreign policy issues and, more specifically, over the question of the murder of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in Saudi’s Istanbul consulate in 2018. This murder escalated tensions sharply. Earlier this year the two countries even blocked some of each other’s news websites.
“A boycott of everything Turkish, be it imports, investment or tourism, is the responsibility of every Saudi ‘trader and consumer’, in response to the continued hostility of the Turkish government against our leadership, country and citizens,” businessman Ajlan al-Ajlan tweeted on Saturday.
Notably, the Saudi Chambers of Commerce is a non-government group of private sector business people which represents business interests in the regions where they exist.
The development has been seen as the latest attempt to create more hostility between the two regional powers. Dawn, Pakistan’s respected English language newspaper, reported that the Saudi government’s communications office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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For over a year, some Saudi and Turkish traders have speculated that Saudi Arabia was enacting an informal boycott of imports from Turkey. Dawn reports that a Saudi importer told Reuters on condition of anonymity that containers he imported this year from Turkey lay for three months with customs before being released. He said customs officials informally advised him not to import directly from Turkey again.
Last week, Turkish opposition lawmaker Mehmet Güzelmansur said that goods, in particular, perishable fruit and vegetables, exported from his region of Hatay are held at the Saudi border for longer than necessary on arrival. In comments reported in Turkish media and on his Twitter page, he said he was concerned that what he described as the partial, informal embargo by Saudi Arabia would be deepened.
Erdogan slams Gulf countries
On Thursday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan took a swipe at the Gulf Arab states in a speech to parliament. “It should not be forgotten that the countries in question did not exist yesterday, and probably will not exist tomorrow. But we will continue to fly our flag in this geography forever with the permission of Allah,” Erdogan said.
Neither Turkish nor Saudi trade data show an unusually large drop in bilateral trade this year, taking into account the strains the coronavirus pandemic has placed on global commerce.
In the second quarter of this year, Turkey was Saudi Arabia’s 12th trade partner by total import value. In July – the latest available data – Saudi imports from Turkey were worth around $185 million, up from roughly $180 million in June.
In addition to accusing some Gulf countries of targeting Turkey and following policies that led to instability, the Turkish president had, during an address to the country’s General Assembly, also said: “It should not be forgotten that the countries in question did not exist yesterday, and probably will not exist tomorrow; however, we will continue to keep our flag flying in this region forever, with the permission of Allah.”
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Dawn comments that relations between Saudi Arabia and Turkey have been thorny especially since the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi that took place in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
Who killed Khashoggi?
As per Dawn’s sources, Erdogan has said the order to murder Khashoggi came from “the highest levels” of the Saudi government but has never directly blamed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is widely believed to be behind the gruesome murder.
Earlier this week, Turkey indicted six Saudi suspects in Khashoggi’s murder case. None of the suspects are in Turkey and will be tried in absentia. Twenty Saudi nationals are already on trial in an Istanbul court for Khashoggi’s killing. The indictment came weeks after a Saudi court overturned five death sentences issued after a closed-door trial in Saudi Arabia that ended last year, sentencing them to 20 years in prison instead.
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Recently, Erdogan also condemned the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain’s decision to normalize ties with Israel. After the announcement of the normalization of ties between UAE and Israel, Erdogan had warned Turkey could suspend diplomatic relations with the Gulf state in response. “Turkey has had diplomatic relations with Israel for decades, but under President Erdogan, has positioned itself as a champion of the Palestinians” commented Dawn.