By News Agencies and Haaretz Service
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan received a hero’s welcome upon his return to Istanbul on Friday, a day after storming off the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos, red-faced from verbally sparring with President Shimon Peres over the recent fighting in Gaza.
Upon his return to Istanbul, Erdogan told a news conference that his anger over the operation in Gaza and Peres’ remarks was directed not at Jews, but at the Israeli administration.
“Our people would have expected the same reaction from any Turkish prime minister,” he told a news conference at Ataturk airport on Friday morning after speaking to a cheering crowd.
“This was a matter of the esteem and prestige of my country. Hence, my reaction had to be clear. I could not have allowed anyone to poison the prestige and in particular the honor of my country,” he said.
“Our reproaches are not against the Israeli people or Jews. Our reproach is totally against the Israeli administration,” Erdogan said.
Thousands of people gathered at the Ataturk airport on Friday morning to greet Erdogan, waving Turkish and Palestinian flags and chanting his name. Some supporters shouted “Turkey is with you,” and others held signs greeting Erdogan as “a new world leader,” the BBC reported.
Meanwhile, Peres and Erdogan spoke by telephone after the debate, in which United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Arab League leader Amr Moussa also participated. During the conversation, the two leaders agreed not to let the incident affect Turkish-Israeli relations, Israel Radio reported.
“I am very sorry for what happened and friends could sometimes have an argument between themselves,” Peres told Erdogan during the telephone conversation. “I have always had a great respect for the Republic of Turkey and you as the prime minister. I consider myself as a friend of Turkey and Premier Erdogan.”
“We don’t want conflict with Turkey. We are in a conflict with the Palestinians,” Peres told reporters at the annual gathering of businessmen and political leaders in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.
“I don’t see this as a personal or national problem. The relations can remain as they are. My respect [for him] hasn’t changed. It was an exchange of views and views are views,” Peres said.
Peres said he hoped Turkey would continue to be a moderating force in the Middle East. “Turkey should be an answer to Iran … they offer a choice
to the Middle East. I hope they will continue to do it,” he said.