Page last updated at 23:52 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

Turkish PM storms off in Gaza row

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Turkey PM storms off in Gaza row

Turkey's prime minister has stormed off the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos after a heated debate on Gaza with Israel's president.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan clashed with Shimon Peres, whose voice had risen as he made an impassioned defence of Israel's actions, jabbing his finger.

Mr Erdogan said Mr Peres had spoken so loudly to conceal his "guilt".

He accused the moderator of not allowing him to speak and said he did not think he would return to Davos.

The Turkish PM stressed later that he had left the debate not because of his disagreements with Mr Peres but because he had been given much less time to speak than the Israeli leader.

Turkey is one of the few Muslim countries to have dealings with Israel, but relations have been under strain since the Islamist-rooted AK Party was elected to power in 2002.

Late on Thursday, a WEF official said that Mr Peres and Mr Erdogan had spoken by mobile telephone, and both men now considered the matter closed.

Dinner time

In the debate, Mr Erdogan was cut off as he attempted to reply to Mr Peres.

Palestinian children reportedly injured in an Israeli missile attack lie in hospital in Khan Younis, Gaza, 29 January
Many of the casualties in Gaza have been children, doctors say

Earlier the Turkish Prime Minister had made an address himself, describing Gaza as an "open-air prison".

When the audience applauded Mr Peres, he said: "I find it very sad that people applaud what you said. You killed people. And I think that it is very wrong."

The moderator, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, had given him a minute to reply, then asked him to finish, saying that people needed to go to dinner.

"I do not think I will be coming back to Davos after this because you do not let me speak," Mr Erdogan shouted before marching off the stage in front of Mr Peres, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and an elite audience of ministers and international officials.

Mr Peres had told the audience Israel was forced on to the offensive against Hamas by thousands of rockets and mortars fired into Israel.

"The tragedy of Gaza is not Israel, it is Hamas," the Israeli leader said.

"Why did they fire rockets? There was no siege against Gaza. Why did they fight us, what did they want? There was never a day of starvation in Gaza."

He argued that Mr Erdogan would have reacted in the same way if rockets had hit Istanbul.

More than 1,300 Palestinians and 14 Israelis were killed during the three-week conflict which began on 27 December.

Mr Erdogan later complained that he had been allowed to speak for just 12 minutes compared with 25 for Mr Peres.

"I did not target at all in any way the Israeli people, President Peres or the Jewish people," he said.

"I am a prime minister, a leader who has expressly stated that anti-Semitism is a crime against humanity."


The following is a broad cross-section of some of the comments in response to this story.

Everyone should oppose Israel action against Gaza, killing several innocent people. Tayyip Erdogan expressed his nation's feeling, nothing wrong in that as he got every right to do it.
Ashid, India

Typically, a Muslim leader under a pretence of impartiallity, upholds terrorism as legitimate and simultaneously denies Israeli citizens the right of peaceful coexistence. During the war in Gaza I was on a bus in Haifa. A young Muslim woman wearing a Quafia sat reading a poetry book on her way to University. When will a young Jewish woman be free to ride a bus in Gaza? When will Jewish Israelis be free to study in Arab Universities? When will Israelis be free to ride public transport without a need for discretion (as a safety precaution)?
Richard, Haifa Israel

Mr Erdogan was absolutely right to walk out. In a debate, both sides should be given equal opportunity to make their case.
Nausherwan, Lahore, Pakistan

Mr Erdogan expressed his opinions clearly, sincerely and emotionally during his speech about this very fresh and tough subject, which world leaders failed to do so during last months. I strongly appreciate him because of his courage and also reaction to Mr Peres's aggressive speech.
Bugrahan, Leipzig Germany

The Turkish prime minister should first acknowledge the crimes against humanity his own country has committed in my country, Cyprus, crimes for which Turkey is still being convicted for by the European Court of Human Rights. Then he can claim the moral high ground for attacking other countries’ human rights records.
Nicolas, Nicosia Cyprus

I am a Cypriot and although I admire of the action of the Prime Minister to stand up and walk away from The Davos summit, I would like to remind to Mr Erdogan that his own country in 1974 have made worse than the Israel to the Palestinians, and they have murdered innocent people and children and they have occupied 37% of the island with 200,000 refugies still away from their properties and houses. Turkey wants to become full member in the European Union, how does this justifies Turkey , Why Me Erdogan does not express his sorry and takes hiw army from Cyprus in order to prove to everybody that he really cares for the Palestiniasn rights? Please ask him and if he gives you an answer send it to the Cyprus people.
Savvas, Nicosia- Cyprus

Usually I am not fond of Erdogan's policies, but I have to applaud him on this. He chose to stand up against crime and inhumanity. I am a Turk myself and feel sorry for what is happening in Gaza right now.
Cem Tosun, Kassel, Germany

Turkish Prime Minister is trying to win the votes of the anti-Israel population in Turkey in the next local elections. It simply is a publicity stunt. You can see by the reaction of the people who greeted him at the Airport at 2am in the morning that his plans have worked.
Ekim Ozturk, Istanbul, Turkey

Since Turkey is carrying out military operations against the Kurds and still occupying Cyprus since they invaded in 1974 that makes Prime Minister Erdogan a hypocrite!!!
John, Melbourne,Australia

We are very proud of our PM. Somebody had to be loud over Israeli actions in Gaza. Regarding the moderator of the panel, I am afraid he has totally failed to moderate the panel in objective manner.
Cenk, Istanbul, Turkey



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