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Khashoggi fallout: Saudi holidaymakers urged to shun Turkey

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Diplomatic fallout over journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder appears to be slowing the flow of high-rolling Saudis to Turkey, as calls grow within the oil-rich kingdom to boycott the holiday magnet.

The two Sunni Muslim powers have a longstanding geopolitical rivalry, but relations plumbed new lows after Khashoggi’s killing in October in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, which tainted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s global image.

Each year hundreds of thousands of Saudi tourists visit Turkey, thanks to its milder climate, turquoise waters and status as a crossroads between East and West.

But tensions over the journalist’s murder are feeding into growing calls by nationalists and pro-government media to boycott Turkey, potentially hitting its already strained economy.

“Don’t go to Turkey” and “Turkey is not safe” are just some of the headlines that have popped up, with multiple media outlets running hostile stories in recent months.

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Many, including Al-Arabiya, have splashed official warnings from the Saudi embassy in Ankara about rising passport theft and petty crime.

The apparent scaremongering seems to be working, since the Turkish tourism ministry reported Saudi visitor arrivals dropped more than 30 percent in the first five months of 2019 compared to the same period last year.

A travel agency in Riyadh reported a similar fall in bookings to AFP, although Saudi tourism authorities did not respond to a request for comment.

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“I care about safety,” a young Riyadh resident told AFP, explaining why he was likely to avoid Turkey.

– ‘Boycott call’ –

Saudis, who are also among the top property buyers and investors in Turkey, spend an average of $500 (450 euros) a day as tourists in the country, significantly higher than European visitors, according to a 2018 study by Riyadh’s King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies.

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Appeals for a boycott of Turkey are not limited to tourism.

A video predating Khashoggi’s murder that showed Riyadh’s influential governor Faisal bin Bandar declining an offer of Turkish coffee recently resurfaced on social media, triggering a call for a boycott of Turkish products.

Ajlan al-Ajlan, chairman of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has been particularly strident.

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“As the Turkish leadership and (President Recep Tayyip) 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,” Ajlan wrote on Twitter last month.

Observers have drawn parallels with how Saudi Arabia flexed its financial muscle by adopting punitive measures in recent diplomatic disputes with Canada, Germany and neighboring Qatar, now under a Riyadh-led economic blockade for two years.

Turkish officials were the first to report Khashoggi’s murder and have continued to press Riyadh for information on the whereabouts of his dismembered body, which remains missing.

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The CIA has reportedly said the murder was likely ordered by Prince Mohammed, a charge Saudi Arabia vehemently denies.

Last month Prince Mohammed — heir to the Arab world’s most powerful throne — warned against “exploiting” the murder for political gain, in what appeared to be a veiled attack on Erdogan.

Even before the killing, Riyadh had testy relations with Ankara, a key backer of Doha and accused of supporting Islamist groups including the Muslim Brotherhood.

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Saudi Arabia views the Brotherhood as an existential threat.

The boycott rhetoric could not have come at a worse time for Turkey as it battles an economic crisis.

“The already suffering Turkish real estate market could be further damaged by a mass exodus of Saudi property holdings,” Hussein Ibish, a scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, told AFP.

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“That’s another big gun Riyadh hasn’t fired yet.”

So far however the data does not show damage to the Turkish property market, with home sales to Saudi citizens from January to May 2019 up at 992, compared with 977 over the same period last year.

– ‘Don’t go to Turkey’ –

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The tensions come as Saudi Arabia — hit by a downturn in oil prices — seeks to boost domestic spending, reversing a decades-long trend that has seen citizens splurge cash overseas.

“Saudi Arabia is hitting two targets with one bullet — stop Turkey from benefitting from Saudi tourists and convince Saudis to spend their money domestically,” said Quentin de Pimodan, a Saudi expert at the Greece-based Research Institute for European and American Studies.

And Abdullah, a 39-year-old Riyadh-based academic, laughed off the travel warnings, telling AFP his family planned a Turkey visit this year.

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“Saudis love going to Turkish restaurants” in their own country, said Abdullah, who requested his full name be withheld.

“When they finish eating they write on Twitter: ‘Don’t go to Turkey’.”


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Mike Pence to headline ‘intimate’ $35,000 per couple fundraiser at gay-owned private club

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Location reportedly revealed by chef during hearing on felony assault and domestic violence charges

Vice President Mike Pence will headline a $35,000-per-couple fundraiser at a private club owned by two gay men in Aspen, Colorado Monday evening.

The invitation, sent by Bob Jenkins, vice chair of Pitkin County Republicans, calls it "an intimate high dollar reception," and says, "we would like you to participate if possible. Additionally, please quietly spread the word," according to The Aspen Times.

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Man who believed ‘the Bible is for white people’ gets life in prison after setting black man on fire in gruesome murder

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A white man from Tennessee has been sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of murdering a black man by setting him on fire while he slept.

The Daily News Journal reports that 53-year-old John Carothers has pleaded guilty to murdering Robert Miller, a housemate who lived with him at the Frazier Young Supportive Living, which is a home for people with intellectual disabilities.

According to prosecutors, Carothers in March 2018 doused Miller in lighter fluid while he was asleep in his bed and then lit him on fire. Miller would subsquently die from burn-related injuries at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

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Fox News host wipes smirk from colleague’s face by dismantling his ‘love it or leave it’ rant

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A Fox News host shut down her colleague's defense of President Donald Trump's "love it or leave it" rhetoric.

Pete Hegseth, a "Fox & Friends" host, appeared on the network's "Outnumbered" program to defend the president from charges of racism after he called out four Democratic congresswomen -- all of them women of color -- to return to their home countries.

"He’s a capitalist verses that out-and-out socialist, anti-Semitic comments that they've made," Hegseth claimed. "He wants that foil, and I think where he comes at it from the love of country perspective. It’s not that they just love and cherish the country so much, but they want to make some policy tinkers. It's that they want to change the country completely, they think America is defined by our sins and it’s a bad place."

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