Middle East, News

Turkey’s Cavusoglu discusses regional issues with Saudi King

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu discusses regional issues with Saudi King Salman in Jeddah during extraordinary meeting of Organization of Islamic Cooperation foreign ministers.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has met with King Salman of Saudi Arabia in Jeddah in order to discuss regional issues during an extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) foreign ministers held regarding the Yemeni crisis between June 15-16.

“During the meeting, they discussed aspects of bilateral cooperation between the two countries and reviewed latest developments at regional and international arenas,” the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) has reported.

The attendees at the meeting included the Saudi Minister of State Dr. Musaed bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Adel bin Zaid Altoraifi, Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, and Turkish Ambassador to the Kingdom Yunus Demirer.

Cavusoglu gave a statement to journalists at the sidelines of the OIC meeting, saying that the attendees discussed the conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Iraq and the evolving regional situation.

The Turkish foreign minister stated that Turkey and Saudi Arabia are on the same page regarding regional issues, primarily the Yemeni crisis.

Cavusoglu has also commented on the recent death sentence given to Muhammad Morsi – Egypt’s deposed president – as well as Morsi’s supporters, saying that “We think that Saudi Arabia can play an important role in revoking death sentences and releasing political prisoners in Egypt.”

Cairo’s Criminal Court sentenced Morsi to death for breaking out of jail in 2011, despite deciding to revise a previous death sentence for espionage down to 25 years in prison. The Muslim Brotherhood’s grand leader Mohamed Badie was also sentenced to death for breaking out of jail.

Seventeen other Muslim Brotherhood supporters were sentenced to death in the espionage case, including Khairat al-Shater and Mohammed al-Beltagy. Thirteen more defendants were additionally sentenced to death in absentia.

Ninety-four other co-defendants were also sentenced to death in absentia on similar charges, including prominent Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Turkey thinks Saudi Arabia could help have the convictions of Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders repealed or revised because the country has good relations with the current Egyptian government following a coup in 2013 led by former top general Abdul-Fattah al Sisi who is now the president of Egypt.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia have similar political stances in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen against Iran which is the Shia power of the Middle East and supports the Shiae-allied groups against Sunni opposition groups or governments in those countries. Turkey and Saudi Arabia both have majority Sunni populations.

However on Egypt the Turkish and Saudi Arabian governments have different positions. Turkey opposed the Egyptian military’s deposing of Morsi, the first democratically elected president of the country, while Saudi Arabia voiced support for Sisi and Egypt’s military leaders.

Iran does not have much involvement in Egyptian politics, whose Muslim population is nearly completely Sunni and in that respect different from Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

The relationship between Turkey and Egypt has suffered from significant political tensions  since the military coup which toppled Morsi and both countries recalled their respective ambassadors in November 2013.

The opposing political positions regarding Egypt caused a rift between Turkey and several Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan improved relations with the new Saudi King Salman following his attendance at the funeral of the previous Saudi King Abdullah in January 2015.

Relations were also boosted with the emergence of the crisis in Yemen which led to Saudi Arabian military involvement in the country in order to prevent the Iranian-backed Houthi militants from taking over the whole of Yemen. Turkey condemned the Houthi attacks and supported the Saudi-led strikes.

In September 2014 the Iranian-backed Houthis succeeded in taking control of the Yemeni capital of Sanaa through an armed uprising, allegedly backed by Iran, causing the Yemeni government to flee to Aden after the group attempted to disband the Yemeni government in January.

Houthi forces began a military campaign to take Aden in April, forcing the government to escape the country to neighbouring ally Saudi Arabia where it has set up office in the capital Riyadh.

The Houthi uprising has rung alarm bells in Riyadh who fears the Houthis allied to its foe Iran will dominate the kingdom’s southern neighbour, and that the advance of their Shiite Muslim fighters into Sunni areas may provoke sectarian fighting which Al Qaeda can exploit.

Backed by the United States, a Saudi-led coalition has conducted more than 1,200 air strikes against the Houthi militants and army units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh since March 26, with the aim of restoring the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Thousands of people have been killed and more than 100,000 have been displaced since the beginning of the conflict, according to the United Nations.

The Saudi-led Arab alliance and NATO have accused Iran of arming the Houthis.

Tehran denies the allegations.

Resource: TRT World, June 18, 2015

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