"When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill."–Finally, someone speaks the truth to Sir Shimon the Satan-hearted.

January 29, 2009

In News

Hero’s welcome for Turkish leader after Davos

01.30.2009 | International Herald Tribune
By Sebnem Arsu and Katrin Bennhold The New York Times

DAVOS, Switzerland: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan flew home to a hero’s
welcome on Friday after walking off the stage following an angry exchange over the Gaza war with the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The episode Thursday had all the overtones of a diplomatic incident, ruffling

relations between Israel and a Muslim ally that is playing a key role in Middle East

peace efforts.

The semiofficial Anatolian News Agency reported that Peres called Erdogan five

minutes after the walkout in Davos to apologize for any misunderstanding, saying

that his remarks about Israel’s Gaza offensive had not been directed at the prime

minister personally. In Jerusalem, a spokeswoman for Peres, Meital Jaslovitz,

described the telephone conversation as “positive.” But, she said on Friday, there

was no apology from Peres, contrary to the Turkish news agency report.

Erdogan did not seem apologetic, either.

“I only know that I’m responsible for protecting the honor of the Turkish Republic,

the Turkish nation from A to Z,” Erdogan said as he returned to Istanbul. “I am not

a leader of a tribe. I am the prime minister of the Republic of Turkey. I do

whatever I need to, so I did it, and will continue to do so. This is my character.

This is my identity.”

“It was a matter of my country’s respect and prestige. Therefore, my attitude should

have been clear,” he said. “I couldn’t have allowed anyone to hurt the prestige and

especially the honor of my country.”

Live television footage showed crowds waving Palestinian and Turkish flags at

Istanbul’s Ataturk airport while chanting slogans in support of the prime minister.

Banners proclaimed Erdogan the “delegate of the oppressed” and said: “Let the world

see a proper prime minister.” The passions reflected widespread anger over the Gaza

war in Turkey, a secular nation whose population is mostly Muslim.

The incident came just days before President Obama’s new Middle East envoy, George

Mitchell, had planned to visit Turkey to discuss regional peace efforts as part of a

tour of several countries. However, on Friday, a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy

in Ankara, speaking in return for customary anonymity under diplomatic rules, said

the visit had been postponed because of “severe scheduling constraints.” The

decision to put off the visit was made before the altercation in Davos, the

spokesperson said.

In Davos, Erdogan apparently became incensed after the moderator curtailed his

response to remarks by Peres on the recent Israeli military campaign. The panel was

running late, and Peres was to have had the last word, participants said.

Panel discussions at Davos are restricted to one hour, but Erdogan insisted on

responding to Peres. Red-faced, and with one hand grasping the arm of the moderator,

the columnist David Ignatius of The Washington Post, Erdogan turned to the Israeli


“Mr. Peres, you are older than me,” he said. “Your voice comes out in a very high

tone. And the high tone of your voice has to do with a guilty conscience. My voice,

however, will not come out in the same tone.”

Resisting efforts by Ignatius to end the session, Erdogan continued, saying to

Peres, “When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill.”

Eventually, the prime minister gathered up his papers and departed, saying, “And so

Davos is over for me from now on.”

Peres pointed at the departing Erdogan and said Turkey would have reacted as Israel

did had rockets been falling on Istanbul, participants said.

In a news conference immediately after the panel discussion, Erdogan said he was

particularly upset with Ignatius, who he said had failed to direct a balanced and

impartial panel.

By all accounts, the discussion of the Gaza offensive was lively, with Secretary

General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations and Amr Moussa, the Arab League’s

secretary general, joining Peres and Erdogan. Participants said Peres was mostly

alone in defending Israel’s role in Gaza, and for that reason he was given the final

25 minutes to speak. Earlier, Erdogan spoke for 12 minutes about the Palestinians’


Although Erdogan has strongly criticized Israel’s Gaza offensive, his country and

Israel have long enjoyed close diplomatic relations. With its strong relations with

the militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, Erdogan’s Justice and Development

Party has played a growing role mediating among Israel, Syria, Lebanon and the