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Saudi royals host Erdogan ahead of Syria talks

By AFP - Feb 14,2017 - Last updated at Feb 14,2017

A handout picture released by the Saudi Royal Palace shows Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Riyadh on Tuesday (AFP photo/Saudi Royal Palace/Bandar Al Jaloud)

RIYADH — Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Saudi Arabia's top leadership on Tuesday during a visit to further strengthen ties, as part of a Gulf tour ahead of Syria peace talks.

King Salman hosted a luncheon banquet for Erdogan, who arrived in Riyadh late Monday, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

It gave no details of their discussions, but said Erdogan also met Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, the interior minister, and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who is defence minister.

The two Sunni powers have become increasingly close over the past year, sharing in particular a backing for the opposition in Syria's war.

As Erdogan held talks in Riyadh, his Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told his ruling Justice and Development Party lawmakers in Ankara that Al Bab in northern Syria was "largely" under the control of Turkish-backed Syrian rebels after months of clashes with extremists.

Al Bab was the Daesh terror group's last stronghold in Aleppo province.

Ankara has taken on an increasingly important role with Moscow and Iran as a powerbroker in the Syria conflict.

Analysts say the capture late last year by Syria's army of the country's second city Aleppo, backed by Russian air strikes, was a setback for Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

In January, Turkey, along with Assad allies Russia and Iran, sponsored talks in Kazakhstan between Syrian rebels and government officials.

There was no breakthrough, but another round is expected in Astana this Wednesday and Thursday, before United Nations-sponsored peace talks resume in Geneva on February 23.

On Monday in Bahrain, Erdogan called for a "safe zone" in northern Syria for people displaced by the war.

The positions of Saudi Arabia and Turkey are "absolutely identical" on Syria, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir said last week in Ankara.

He was attending the first meeting of a coordination council to enhance ties between the two countries.


Later Tuesday Erdogan will be in Qatar, with which Turkey has maintained strong ties for years. Qatar also hosts a Turkish military base.

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