Saudi Arabian citizens in Turkey have been given a second security warning about traveling to the country in less than a week, prompting speculation that the kingdom is pushing for a boycott of Ankara amid tensions caused by the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Saudi embassy in Ankara warned Saudis visiting Turkey to safeguard their belongings, claiming a rise in the number of cases of the theft of Saudi passports in Istanbul.
Last week, the embassy issued a similar warning, claiming that Turkish gangs targeting Saudi tourists had stolen the passports of 165 Saudi citizens in Istanbul neighborhoods popular with tourists.
“The thefts and pick-pocketing are not limited to Saudi tourists, but we have heard similar cases among Arab tourists,” Charge D’Affaires at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul Meshary Al-Thyaby was quoted as saying by Asharq al-Awsat.
The warnings come as Khashoggi’s murder appears to be having a negative effect on Saudi travel to Turkey, as calls grow in Riyadh to boycott Ankara.
Relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia plummeted to new lows after Khashoggi was murdered by a hit squad inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October.
The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the first to report Khashoggi’s murder and has since continued to press Riyadh for information on the whereabouts of his dismembered body, which remains missing.
The CIA has concluded in its assessment that the murder was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
In what appeared to be a veiled attack on Erdogan, bin Salman warned against “exploiting” the murder for political gain last month.
‘Don’t go to Turkey’
Each year hundreds of thousands of Saudi tourists visit Turkey, where they spend an average of $500 (450 euros) a day, according to a 2018 study by Riyadh’s King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies.
That number, however, is in decline and Saudis, who are also among the top property buyers and investors in Turkey, are being actively encouraged by the media and social media users to avoid the country as a tourist destination.
Over the past months, several Saudi outlets have published articles with titles such as “Don’t go to Turkey” and “Turkey is not safe.”
The official warnings from the Saudi embassy in Ankara have also received widespread coverage on various networks, including Al Arabiya.
Turkey’s tourism ministry says Saudi visitor arrivals have dropped more than 30 percent in the first five months of 2019 year on year.
Some Saudi nationalists have even called for a boycott of Turkish products after a video predating Khashoggi’s murder resurfaced recently, showing Riyadh governor Faisal bin Bandar declining an offer of Turkish coffee.
Ajlan al-Ajlan, chairman of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has been particularly strident.
“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, labor and dealings with Turkish companies,” Ajlan wrote on Twitter last month.