January 29, 2009 / 9:01 PM / 11 years ago

Turkish PM storms out of heated Mideast debate

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan stormed out of a debate on the Middle East at the World Economic Forum on Thursday, saying he might never return to the annual gathering of the rich and powerful.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 29, 2009. REUTERS/Pascal Lauener

Israel’s President Shimon Peres had launched a fiery defense of his country’s assault on Gaza over the past month and, with a raised voice and pointed finger, questioned what Erdogan would do if rockets were fired at Istanbul every night.

As the debate, which also included United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Arab League chief Amr Moussa, was ending, Erdogan was cut short as he tried to respond.

“I don’t think I will come back to Davos because you don’t let me speak,” the Turkish prime minister said, as he stood up and walked out of the conference hall in the Swiss ski resort.

“The president spoke for only 25 minutes. I have only spoken for half of that.”

Turkey’s state-run Anatolian news agency quoted Erdogan as saying to Peres: “When it comes to killing you know very well how to kill. I know very well how you killed children on the beaches.”

In a hastily-called news conference, Erdogan later explained that he had been upset with both the moderation of the debate and Peres’ manner.

“My reaction was directed at the moderator. I think that if we have moderation in this way, we won’t really get out of Davos what we all come here to get out of Davos, and it would cast a shadow over efforts to reach peace,” Erdogan said.

“President Peres was speaking to the prime minister of Turkey — I am not just some leader of some group or tribe, so he should have addressed me accordingly,” he told reporters.

(Reporting by Mike Dolan and Jason Subler; editing by Andrew Roche)

For full coverage, blogs and TV from Davos go to www.reuters.com/davos

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