From coffee to cheese, Saudi supermarkets are taking products from Turkey off their shelves. An unofficial and undeclared trade war, so as not to incur WTO sanctions. According to Ankara, the Saudi companies forced to sign letters in which they undertake "not to import products".
Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - From pickled grape leaves to coffee and cheese, Saudi supermarkets are withdrawing a growing number of “made in Turkey” products from their shelves, following a growing call for a boycott.
The rising economic and commercial war is feeding the tension between Ankara and Riyadh, two great powers - on opposite fronts - within the Sunni Muslim galaxy. This rivalry has grown exponentially in the aftermath of the assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Saudi Arabia has tried to further strengthen the pressure on the Turkish economy, which is in difficulty due to the global pandemic. Tourism was one of the first sectors hit by the boycott last year, while now attention has shifted to the textile and other goods sector, blocked at Saudi customs with the risk of interrupting the global supply chain.
In response to the appeal launched by the head of the Saudi Chamber of Commerce calling for "boycotting everything Turkish", this week several supermarket chains in the Wahhabi kingdom have announced a halt to imports and sales. "This decision - underlines the head of Abdullah AlOthaim Markets - comes in solidarity with the popular boycott campaign".
Some chains intend to continue the sale until stocks run out . However, an AFP correspondent in Riyadh reports seeing vendors clearing the shelves of Turkish products such as coffee, chocolates and jars of pickled vegetables. "This is a very delicate matter" confirms (behind anonymity) the manager of a large chain, who does not even want to explain the fate of the products once they have been removed from the shelves.
Saudi Arabia and Turkey are on opposing sides in various regional and international dossiers, from Libya to Syria, up to Qatar, key ally of Ankara, which for three years has been the subject of an economic, political and diplomatic blockade by Riyadh. Fearing a complaint to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Saudi leadership is careful not to support - at least in public - the boycott campaign from which it seems to have distanced itself. The authorities deny restrictions on "made in Turkey" products, even though Ankara businessmen speak of a "forcibly signed letter" by Saudi companies in which they pledge "not to import products from Turkey".
Analysts and experts stress that Ankara will not give in to the pressure campaign and there will be no devastating effects on its economy. After all, Saudi Arabia is only the 15th market for the export sector among textiles, chemicals, furniture and steel. However, the fear is that the call for a boycott may also extend to Riyadh's regional allies in the near future. The tension between the two countries is also explained by Ankara's increasing closeness to the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, proponents of a new caliphate and ancient enemies of the Wahhabi kingdom.