Erdogan greets Saudi King with Russian military march (VIDEO)

Video footage shows uniformed soldiers lined up in formation as Erdogan walks down a blue carpet and makes his way towards a microphone. Live music plays as the president makes his entrance – but the tune is very clearly the pre-revolutionary Russian march “Toska po rodine” (Longing for Home).

Although there is debate over the authorship of the music, it is undeniably Russian. Records point to a number of Russian composers, while many music historians say the melody was first recorded by F.E. Kroup in St. Petersburg in 1905.

The music would be a surprising choice under any scenario, but the choice is particularly baffling considering current tensions between Moscow and Ankara. Relations became strained when Turkish jets shot down a Russian bomber operating from a Syrian airbase last November.

The Saudi King’s official visit, which began on Monday, has included meetings with Turkish officials in Ankara. He is also attending a two-day Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Istanbul on Thursday and Friday. Turkey and Saudi Arabia have developed close relations in recent years, particularly on issues regarding ongoing conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

Preparations for the King’s arrival were anything but low-key. Three-hundred Saudi security officials were sent to Ankara to prepare for his arrival, with the security detail booking every room in the five-star JW Marriott hotel. The windows of the king’s suite were covered with bulletproof glass and the walls were plastered with bomb-resistant cement at a cost of US$10 million, according to local media. Around 500 luxury cars were hired to transport the king’s entourage.

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