Turkish PM hailed as hero after Davos row
The Turkish Prime Minister stormed off after getting into an argument with Israeli President on the Gaza war at the World Economic Forum debate.
ANKARA – Thousands of supporters mobbed Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hamas hailed his "courageous stand" Friday after Erdogan stormed out of an World Economic Forum debate with Israel's President Shimon Peres on the Gaza war.
Jubilant followers of the Islamist-rooted leader waved Turkish and Palestinian flags at Istanbul airport just hours after Erdogan marched off the stage in front of Peres and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and said he would not return to Davos.
Erdogan made the front page of newspapers across Europe and the Middle East. The battle went on Friday with Peres' office rejecting claims by the Turkish prime minister's entourage that the Israeli president had apologised.
Turkey is one of Israel's rare diplomatic allies in the Muslim world but Erdogan has been a fierce critic of Israel's 22-day military onslaught that left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead.
He complained that Peres had been given more time to speak than other members of the Davos panel discussing the Gaza war.
Erdogan also criticised the international audience for applauding the veteran Israeli president's emotional defence of the offensive aimed at halting Hamas rocket attacks.
Peres, a Nobel peace prize winner, said Israel had no choice and pointing his finger at a visibly agitated Erdogan, said the prime minister would have done the same if rockets fell on Istanbul every night.
The Turkish leader, who has sought a peacemaker's role in the Middle East conflict, said Israel had carried out "barbarian" actions in Gaza before he marched off.
Back in Istanbul, he was unapologetic over his actions.
"I did what I had to do," he told reporters at the airport. "I cannot remain apathetic when it comes to these things, it's just not in my nature. I am duty-bound to defend the honour of my country."
Erdogan said he was not "at heart a diplomat but a politician".
Hamas, which has maintained contacts with Turkish leaders even though it is listed as a terrorist organisation by much of the West, hailed Erdogan.
"Hamas pays tribute to the courageous stand of Turkey's prime minister ... who in Davos directly defended the victims of the criminal Zionist war against our children and women in Gaza," said spokesman Fawzi Barhum.
"We consider his departure from the room an expression of support for the victims of the Holocaust carried out by the Zionists," he said in a statement.
Turkey's Anatolia news agency quoted Erdogan's entourage as saying Peres apologised when he spoke with Erdogan after the incident.
"This claim is untrue," said Israeli presidency spokeswoman Ayelet Frish.
She said the two leaders had "a friendly conversation".
"The Turkish prime minister stressed his move was not against Peres but the president of the session," who had interrupted Erdogan, Frish said.
Arab League secretary general Amr Mussa, who had also been on the Davos panel with Erdogan, Peres and the UN secretary general, said Erdogan had been right to complain about the fairness of the debate
Erdogan made the front page of Turkish newspapers, though the opposition criticised his protest.
"Mr Erdogan ruined the international prestige of Turkey. Supporting the Palestinian cause is one thing, but supporting Hamas is something else," commented Onur Oymen, deputy president of the main opposition CHP party.
"Mr Erdogan acted like a spokesman for an organisation that is classed as terrorist," said Oymen.
The Turkish prime minister also made headlines across the Middle East.
The United Arab Emirates' Arabic language Al-Khaleej newspaper ran a front-page story saying Erdogan left the stage at Davos after he "exposed the Israeli Holocaust in Gaza and defended the Palestinians".
[AFP / Expatica]