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Middle East

Turkish PM gets hero's welcome after Davos Gaza bust-up

Article published on the 2009-01-30 Latest update 2009-01-31 11:32 TU

"Turkey is proud of you!" the crowd tells Erdogan(Photo: AFP)

"Turkey is proud of you!" the crowd tells Erdogan
(Photo: AFP)

A crowd of about 3,000 gave Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan a hero's welcome in Istanbul when he returned after storming out of the Davos Economic Forum in Switzerland. The largest movement in Gaza, Hamas, hailed Erdogan's "courageous stand", after he clashed with Israeli President Shimon Peres over Israel's offensive on the territory.
"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 spokesperson Fawzi Barhum.

Turkey's presidency on Friday announced a one-day visit to Ankara by Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas next week to discuss with President Abdullah Gul "all aspects of the Palestinian problem, including efforts to secure unity among Palestinian groups".

"I did what I had to do," Erdogan told reporters, as jubilant supporters met him 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."

During a debate at the Davos forum on Thursday, Erdogan insisted on responding to Peres's defence of Israel's Gaza offensive.

"When it comes to killing, you Israelis know all about it," he said, adding that troops had "shot and killed children on the beach".

When the meeting's chair, David Ignatius of the Washington Post, tried to cut short his remarks, Erdogan stormed out, declaring that he was unlikely to return to Davos.

Turkey, a majority Muslim but non-Arab country, has many trade links with Israel and has mediated between it and its Arab neighbours.

Erdogan's stance over Gaza has struck some commentators as "surprisingly pro-Hamas", says correspodent Nick Birch.

"This does put into question, I think, Turkey’s capacity to continue its role as sort of  mediator," he told RFI.

Interview: Correspondent Nick Birch in Istanbul

30/01/2009 by Mark Rodden

In the US, about 60 lawmakers have urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to give emergency funds to the UN relief agency to help rebuild the Gaza Strip.

In a letter dated Tuesday, they called on Clinton to direct her staff to draw up a list of humanitarian action by 13 February.

In Israel former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose right-wing Likud Party is frontrunner in the general election campaign, declared on Friday that he will not evacuate Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

Netanyahu criticised outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who reportedly told US envoy George Mitchell that Israel had offered to remove 60,000, settlers in negotiations with the Palestinians.