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Turkey Expels Saudi Intelligence over Diplomatic Rift

Local Editor

Al-Akhbar Newspaper

Ankara plans to shut Saudi intelligence offices in Turkey following a series of diplomatic disputes over the conflicts in Syria and Egypt, a well-placed Turkish source told Al-Akhbar.

The Saudi intelligence presence in Turkey is mainly there to provide support and training for armed groups fighting in Syria.

According to the source, Turkish authorities believe Saudi Arabia’s position on Syria is no longer in line with Turkey’s interests, as Ankara is reportedly trying to ease tensions with Tehran and Damascus.

The historic alliance between Saudi Arabia and Turkey began to crumble following the Saudi-sponsored military overthrow of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohammed Mursi on July 3.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly denounced the Egyptian coup and the military crackdown on Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood party.

But the tipping point came when Riyadh attempted to diminish Turkey’s influence over the opposition Syrian National Council and the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the source said.

Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal allegedly told his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglo that Turkey would no longer play a role in the Syrian conflict even if the regime were to fall, and asked Ankara not to interfere in Egypt’s political crisis.

According to the source, Turkish officials believe Saudi Arabia, along with Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, are strategically working against the interests of two different regional blocs: Hezbollah, Syria, Iran and Iraq on one front, and Turkey, Qatar, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood on the other.

The Turkish source added that Saudi Arabia had attempted to disrupt a prisoner swap deal that saw the release of the nine Lebanese pilgrims held in northern Syria in exchange for two Turkish pilots kidnapped in Beirut.

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