Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Plans Visit to Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Jordan, and Egypt

Reuters reported on May 23 that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is planning an international trip to Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Jordan, and Egypt. The meetings are expected to occur in June and will focus on regional issues, security relationships, and energy agreements, according to four anonymous sources interviewed by Reuters.

The tour will mark the Crown Prince’s first state visit beyond the Middle East since attending the 2019 G20 summit in Osaka, where he was hosted for breakfast by former President Donald Trump, despite the CIA investigation’s finding that the Crown Prince had ordered the assassination and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Since the publication of the Khashoggi reports, the Crown Prince has become a pariah among international governments. The planned visits to Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Jordan, and Egypt suggest the international community’s rapprochement of the Crown Prince and shifting politics in the Middle East.

In December of 2021, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman toured numerous Gulf states, including Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, and Kuwait, in anticipation of the annual Gulf summit. The summit repaired the rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which closed its airspace and borders with Qatar in 2017 on accusations that Qatar supported terrorism and was closely allied with Iran. Saudi Arabia emerged from the Gulf summit with strengthened regional relationships.

Saudi Arabia’s ties with Turkey, practically nonexistent since the killing of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, were resumed when Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with the Crown Prince and King Salman on April 28. Earlier that month, a Turkish court ruled that the trial of the 26 suspects accused of killing Khashoggi could take place in Saudi Arabia. The Crown Prince’s visit to Turkey will symbolically demonstrate the leaders’ resumption of relations.

The planned tour would occur in the shadow of Saudi Arabia’s recent refusal to bow under United States pressure to increase oil output and restore balance to a market shaken by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Saudi Arabia’s neutral status in the war has signaled shifting power differentials in their relationship with the United States and the region overall. 

Recent moves by Middle Eastern leaders have suggested a focus on regional security over-reliance on foreign military strength. The United States’ unsightly withdrawal from Afghanistan, unreliability in Syria, withdrawn support for the Yemeni Civil War, and failure to protect its Gulf allies from Houthi attacks have invited America’s Middle Eastern allies to seek arrangements regionally. Egypt hosted a summit on March 22 with Israeli Prime Minister Bennet and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, formerly outcasted for his role in the Syrian Civil War, met with prominent leaders in the United Arab Emirates in March.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s international tour reveals Saudi Arabia’s desire to restore relations with regional partners to reduce dependence on American arrangements.