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Turkey's Prime Minister returned home to a hero's welcome for his "courageous stance" against Israel's war in Gaza


By WcP.Observer - Posted on 08 February 2009

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an was born, and mostly grew up, in the Kas?mpa?a district of Istanbul, a middle-class neighborhood famous for its macho honor code

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Gaza War has strained the relationship between Israel and Turkey, Israel’s closest Muslim ally. Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognize Israel as a state, and it has built up more than $3 billion in annual trade with Israel, far more than for any other Middle Eastern country. “It’s not a business-as-usual relationship anymore,” said Cengiz Candar, a columnist for Radikal, a Turkish daily. “It’s a very uneasy sort of cohabitation in this region now.”

Israel’s Arab allies stood behind it in the war, but Turkey, a NATO member whose mediating efforts last year brought Israel into indirect talks with Syria, protested every step of the way in a month of angry remarks capped when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stalked off the stage during a debate in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 29.

Mr. Erdogan, left, marched off stage during a panel discussion after a moderator cut short his reply to Mr. Peres

Turkey’s Prime Minister returned home to a hero's welcome after storming off stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos during a heated spat over Israel’s assault on Gaza. In the most dramatic moment of this year's muted Davos conference, Recep Tayyip Erdogan walked off a panel discussion including Shimon Peres and Ban Ki-Moon after a moderator cut off his reply to a long and impassioned monologue by the Israeli President. Some carried banners denouncing Israel, a worrying development for a state that counts Turkey as its closest ally in the Muslim world and relies on its role as an intermediary between it and traditional enemies such as Syria.

Barbed wires are seen backgounded by the ski resort of Davos, Switzerland, on January 27, 2009 near the Davos Congress Center on the eve of the opening of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting 2009. More than 2,500 heads of state and government, ministers, captains of industry and leaders of churches and pressure groups will make the annual pilgrimage on January 28, 2009 to the 39th World Economic Forum in the upscale ski resort of Davos

"I did what I had to do," Mr Erdogan told reporters. "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." Mr Erdogan gathered up his belongings and marched off stage, red-faced, shouting that he would not return to Davos again as he had not been allowed to speak. Around 3,000 supporters gathered at Istanbul's airport in the early morning, waving red and white Turkish flags and banners reading "Conqueror of Davos" as Mr Erdogan's flight back from Davos landed.

around 3,000 supporters welcomed Mr Erdogan's return to Istanbul, waving red and white Turkish flags

"President Peres you are older than I am. Maybe you are feeling guilty and that is why you are so strong in your words. You killed people. I remember the children who died on beaches," Mr Erdogan said before he was cut off as the debate was due to end. He then stormed out, pursued by a phalanx of bodyguards and crowds of reporters. Hamas, the Islamist leaders in Gaza, hailed Mr Erdogan for his "courageous stance" against Israel's war in Gaza, which killed more than 1,300 people, a third of them children.

*Update Dec. 15, 2011*

The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan: People's Choice for TIME's 2011 Person of the Year: the most popular -- and the least popular -- in our annual online poll. He's lauded as a steward of Islamic democracy. He's helped boost Turkey to its place as the world's second fastest-growing economy. Though not an Arab, he's the most admired world leader among Arabs, according to a University of Maryland poll. His diplomatic missions bring out throngs of cheering crowds that could make a rock star jealous.

And he's apparently quite good at winning online popularity contests, too. Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was the far-and-away favorite in TIME's 2011 Person of the Year poll. He received 122,928 votes nominating him as the most influential person of the year. The three-term Turkish PM blew away every competitor; second-place challenger Barca striker Lionel Messi earned a mere 60% of the votes (74,412) that Erdogan did, with The 99% taking a healthy third.

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Photos courtesy of topnews.in, Alessandro Della Bella/AP, AFP/Getty Images, and Ibrahim Usta/AP

Original Source: New York Times and Times Online

Related Article: Turk PM appears on Youtube, gives message to world, expressed hope to establish peace in the Middle East

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