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‘Secret embargo’: Saudi Arabia stops Turkish exports from entering kingdom

RIYADH: Saudi Arabian authorities detained trucks and containers carrying Turkish goods into the kingdom this week, in another sign of deteriorating relations between the two countries since Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder last year.

A Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity to Middle East Eye, confirmed that Saudi authorities blocked 80 Turkish trucks which were transporting textile products and chemicals into Saudi Arabia through its Duba port.

Three hundred containers carrying fruit and vegetables from Turkey have also been held in the Jeddah port, according to official. “We are trying to resolve the situation by talking to Saudis,” the official said on Wednesday.

This is not the first time Saudi officials have disrupted Turkish exports. Last week, in a similar fashion, more than 70 Turkish trucks transporting fruit and vegetables were stopped at the Jeddah port.

MEE understands from a second Turkish official that the earlier situation was resolved after the Turkish government intervened.

“Since June, Saudi Arabia has been imposing a secret embargo on Turkish exports,” said Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Mehmet Guzelmansur on Tuesday.

“They hold Turkish raw vegetables and fruits for a month in the port. Usually it would take only two days to complete the official customs checks. They will go rotten.”

‘Very much a political matter’
The Saudi embassy in Ankara declined to comment about the situation on Wednesday. But observers in Turkey believe the problem over the exports, worth $2.6bn last year, stems from lingering political tensions.

Fatih Sener, the head of the Ankara-based International Transporters Association (UND), said lower level officials in Saudi Arabia were causing problems due to the rift with Ankara.

“It is very much a political matter. This could be resolved by President [Recep] Tayyip Erdogan’s personal intervention. However the relations aren’t very well,” he said.

Saudi state-run media and leading business figures in the kingdom have been advocating a tourism and import boycotts against the country since the beginning of the summer.

Ajlan al-Ajlan, chairman of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, called for an import boycott on Twitter last month: “As the Turkish leadership and Erdogan continue their hostility and target the kingdom’s leadership, we call more than ever before to boycott them… in all areas – imports, labour and dealings with Turkish companies.”

Earlier this month, the Saudi embassy in Ankara issued a warning to travellers that passport theft and petty crime was increasing in Turkey. Visitors from Saudi Arabia to Turkey dropped 30 percent in the five months of 2019.

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