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Saudi award to Turkish prime minister signals deepening strategic ties

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Mohammed Obaidi/AFP/Newscom

(Read caption) Saudi award: Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan sits next to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia during the presentation of the annual King Faisal International Award for services to Islam, in Riyadh Tuesday.

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In a sign of their deepening strategic ties, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was honored by Saudi Arabia in Riyadh Tuesday night with a prestigious award for his “service to Islam.”

King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz presented Mr. Erdogan with the 2010 King Faisal International Award, given annually to people whose work benefits humanity.

The choice of Erdogan to receive the prize underscores Saudi Arabia’s backing for Turkey’s efforts to consolidate ties with the Arab world by taking on a more activist role as a Middle East power broker.

His selection also undoubtedly was meant to signal Saudi appreciation for the more critical stance Turkey has taken towards Israel ever since the weeks-long Israeli military assault on Gaza that began in December 2008.

The Israeli onslaught disrupted sensitive negotiations between Israel and Syria that Turkey was mediating at the time, and Ankara felt double-crossed by the surprise attack. Since then, Turkey has been more outspoken against Israel, with which it used to have extremely cordial ties.

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