Turkish PM Calls Gaza What It Was : ‘Killing’

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seen during a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009. Photo: AP Photo/Michel Euler.

See video of Erdogan’s remarks below.

Turkish PM greeted by cheers after Israel debate clash
By Robert Tait / 30 January 2009

Recep Tayyip Erdogan argued with Israeli president over Gaza offensive, before storming out

Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, arrived home to a tumultuous reception of cheering crowds early today after storming out of a debate in Davos over Israel’s recent offensive in Gaza.

Hours after clashing with the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, in angry scenes at the normally sedate world economic forum, he was welcomed at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport by thousands of supporters waving Turkish and Palestinian flags and chanting “Turkey is proud of you”. Sympathisers also left bouquets of flowers at his official residence.

The outpouring of support displayed the domestic political capital Erdogan gained from his performance at the Swiss resort, where he told Peres: “When it comes to killing, you know very well how to kill.” He then walked off the stage, declaring that he would never return to Davos, after claiming he had not been allowed to speak by the debate moderator, the Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.

Erdogan also accused Peres of raising his voice and claimed the Israeli statesman had been allowed more speaking time than himself and the panel discussion’s two other participants, the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, and Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League.

Peres had earlier made an impassioned defence of Israeli actions in Gaza, asking Erdogan: “What would you do if you were to have in Istanbul every night a hundred rockets?” Erdogan responded by saying: “President Peres, you are older than me and your voice is very loud. The reason for you raising your voice is the psychology of guilt … I know very well how you hit and killed children on the beaches.”

The prime minister’s wife, Emine – who this month organised a Women For Peace In Palestine lunch for the wives of Islamic dignitaries – also became involved, bursting into tears after telling reporters that “everything Peres said was a lie”.

Erdogan’s outburst was his most high-profile in a series of outspoken attacks on Israel’s Gaza operations. He had previously called the offensive – in which around 1,300 Palestinians died – a “crime against humanity” and demanded Israel’s expulsion from the UN.

His stance has shocked Israeli officials — used to considering Turkey as their closest regional ally — but played to the pro-Palestinian sentiments of the overwhelmingly Muslim Turkish public. Mass demonstrations in favour of Hamas have been staged in Istanbul and other cities.

Such sympathies have prompted suggestions that Erdogan’s rhetoric has been mainly for domestic political consumption and aimed at wooing voters at forthcoming municipal elections in March. Jewish groups have also voiced fears that the government’s fierce anti-Israeli criticism is fuelling antisemitism The row with Peres overshadowed a dispute between the government and the International Montetary Fund that had seen Erdgoan accuse the fund of setting unacceptable conditions, after negotiations were suspended over a proposed loan to help Turkey weather the economic recession.

On arriving at Ataturk airport, he depicted his Davos walk-out in nationalist terms, telling journalists: “This was a matter of the esteem and prestige of my country. I could not have allowed anyone to poison the prestige and in particular the honour of my country.”

He also denied his comments were aimed at the Israeli people or Jews in general. A world economic forum spokesman said Peres spoke with Erdogan on the phone after the debate and expressed his respect for Turkey.

However, some observers believe Erdogan has sacrificed Turkish foreign policy, especially Turkey’s self-appointed role as a regional mediator.

Before the Gaza hostilities Turkey had been mediating in negotiations between Israel and Syria. There are also fears that the pro-Israel lobby in the US will back moves to recognise the massacres of Armenians by Ottoman forces in the first world war as genocide, a move Turkey vehemently opposes.


Turkish prime minister in angry clash with Israeli president Shimon Peres over ‘very wrong’ offensive against Palestinian territory

Source / The Guardian

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One Response to Turkish PM Calls Gaza What It Was : ‘Killing’

  1. Another comprehensive article on this topic:

    By Jeffrey Heller

    JERUSALEM, Feb 1 (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert threatened on Sunday a “disproportionate response” to the continued firing of rockets into Israel from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

    There have been sporadic rocket attacks by militants on southern Israeli communities and several Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip since a truce came into effect on Jan. 18 following a 22-day Israeli offensive in the territory.

    At least two rockets struck southern Israel on Sunday, causing no damage or casualties. A wing of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a group belonging to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction, claimed responsibility.

    “The government’s position was from the outset that if there is shooting at the residents of the south, there will be a harsh Israeli response that will be disproportionate,” Olmert said at the weekly cabinet meeting after the latest rocket salvo.

    “We will act according to new rules which will ensure that we will not be drawn into a war of incessant shooting on the southern border, which would deprive the residents of the south of a normal life,” he said, without elaborating.

    Israel was criticised for the deaths, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, of more than 1,300 Palestinians, including at least 700 civilians, during the war.

    Critics said Israel had responded disproportionately, in its air and ground offensive in heavily populated areas, to cross-border rocket attacks over the previous eight years that killed 18 people.

    Israel said Hamas militants bore responsibility for civilian deaths in Gaza by operating inside its towns and refugee camps.

    During the Gaza campaign, 10 Israeli soldiers and three civilians were killed.

    TOUGH TALK

    Olmert’s comments were echoed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, a candidate for prime minister in Israel’s Feb. 10 election. Olmert, who quit in a corruption scandal in September but stayed on as caretaker prime minister, is not running.

    “Israel will respond,” said Livni, who replaced Olmert as head of the ruling, centrist Kadima party. “This is my position. It was clear before, during and after the operation, and this is how I will conduct myself as prime minister.”

    Opinion polls in the final stretch of an election campaign dominated by security issues and promises by candidates to keep Hamas at bay, suggest the right-wing Likud party of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will win the most votes.

    Defence Minister Ehud Barak, whose Labour Party is running in fourth place in some polls behind Likud, Kadima and the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, said Israel would respond “in the proper manner” to attacks from the Gaza Strip.

    “And I say this to us all: act judiciously and responsibly at this time. This is, after all, an election season,” Barak said in broadcast remarks at the cabinet session.

    “We are seeing a procession of chitchat from people — some of whom never held a weapon in their hand, never made a real decision, and are now vying for headlines without understanding the conditions, the methods, the factors, the manner in which action should be taken,” said Barak, a former general. (Additional reporting by Dan Williams, Editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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