Saudi Arabia Calls for Complete Boycott of “Everything Turkish”

An employee serves a portion of Turkish baklava at a shop in Istanbul’s Eminönü neighborhood. Credit: Anastasios Papapostolou / Greek Reporter

In a sign of greatly heightened tensions between the Arab world’s greatest power and Turkey, Saudi Arabia on Tuesday called for a sweeping boycott of “everything Turkish” after a statement by Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the policies of Gulf countries.

The Turkish President had charged some Gulf nations with pursuing policies that “destabilized” the region, according to a report from Gulf News.

After previously calling for an embargo on Turkish products, this most recent volley on the part of Saudi Arabia contained much more forceful language and is seen as an extremely unusual move in the world of international relations between the nations.

“The boycott of everything Turkish, whether on the level of import, 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, our country and our citizens,” stated Saudi Arabia’s Chamber of Commerce president Ajlan Al Ajlan in a Tweet.

In a broadside meant to insult Saudi Arabia and perhaps other Arab states, Erdogan had angrily protested against the initial boycott by charging that some Gulf nations had targeted Turkey unfairly, saying in an address to the General Assembly “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.”

The previously warm relationship between Turkey and the Saudi state have soured since the brutal murder of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi from Saudi Arabia. The veteran journalist was beaten, killed and dismembered inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Ankara, Turkey in 2018.

In his defense, Erdogan had stated flatly that the order to kill the journalist had initiated from “the highest levels” of the Saudi Arabian government. Although he had never charged directly that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for ordering the killing, the diplomatic relationship between the Saudi kingdom and Turkey has been on a downward trajectory since that time.

Twenty individuals are already on trial in Turkey for the crime, and the country has also indicted six additional individuals from Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi’s murder, but they are not in the country and will stand trial in absentia.

Five men had last year been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for the killing, but just weeks ago their sentences were overturned and commuted to twenty years’ imprisonment.

In another sign of deteriorating relations with the rest of the Arab and Muslim world, Turkey had also recently decried the momentous decision on the part of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel. At that time, the Turkish President had given a stern warning that his country might be severing its own ties with the UAE.

Turkey has itself had normal diplomatic relations with Israel for some time but the ties have become severely strained in recent years, after Erdogan sided with the Palestinians in disputes with the Israeli state.