Turkish, Saudi leaders discuss Syria, terror on King Salman’s visit

Turkish, Saudi leaders discuss Syria, terror on King Salman’s visit

Turkish, Saudi leaders discuss Syria, terror on King Salman’s visit

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Turkey has decorated Saudi Arabia’s visiting King Salman with its highest state medal in recognition of the two countries’ close ties, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan extending his guest a lavish welcome after the latter’s arrival on April 11.

Erdoğan welcomed Salman with an official ceremony at his presidential palace on April 12, the first day of the Saudi monarch’s official visit to Ankara. The Saudi monarch will proceed to Istanbul later this week for a summit of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Erdoğan bestowed the Order of the State of Republic of Turkey - the highest state order awarded to foreign nationals by the President of the Republic of Turkey - saying the Saudi monarch had exerted “great efforts” to forge friendly ties since taking the throne.

“My Precious Friend, my Dear Brother, since acceding to the throne in Saudi Arabia, you have made great contributions to development of friendly relations between our countries,” Erdoğan said during the presentation of the medal.

“You have constituted an assurance for regional peace, security, serenity and stability with your astute administration. In this regard, the cooperation and the solidarity you have displayed with our country are beyond all kinds of appreciation. Turkey’s and Saudi Arabia’s further deepening of their cooperation in every field with your support is an opportunity for regional and global peace,” Erdoğan said.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey are both strong supporters of the opposition forces in Syria and have been building strong military ties. Turkey participated in military drills in Saudi Arabia this year. Riyadh has deployed warplanes at a Turkish air base as part of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Talks during the king’s three-day visit are expected to focus on Syria and other regional issues, as Erdoğan hosted a luncheon for Salman with the attendance of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. Later, Erdoğan and Salman were scheduled to hold a tête-à-tête meeting.

Salman’s visit to Turkey comes shortly after he arrived on his first official visit to Egypt on April 7, with Cairo saying it was hoping to boost ties with its most important Arab ally and garner trade deals to help bolster its shaky economy. Strained Ankara-Cairo relations were expected to be on the agenda, as Erdoğan had already commented that the Saudi leadership was pressing both sides to reconcile their relations. Egypt will also be present at the OIC summit at the foreign minister level.

“No doubt, this historical visit which you carried out today is a very strong and meaningful message given in regards to future of our relations,” Erdoğan said, voicing confidence that the two states will continue with determination taking steps that will cement bilateral cooperation in every field.

For his part, Salman delivered a brief speech in which he expressed “gratitude” for the presentation of the medal and voiced appreciation of Saudi Arabia’s relations with both the Turkish people and the Turkish government.