Babacan Says World Leaders Privately Backed Erdogan’s Criticism of Israel

ANKARA (Today’s Zaman)–Leaders of many world countries who avoided open criticism of Israel for its deadly operation in Gaza in January have privately expressed support for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his walkout at a Davos panel discussion in protest of the Israeli attacks, Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said Thursday.

Erdogan walked out of the Davos discussion in late January after an angry exchange with Israeli President Shimon Peres, protesting the moderator for insistently trying to cut off his response to Peres. "When it comes to killing people, you know well how to do it," he told Peres before walking out, promising never to return to Davos.

Erdogan was given a hero’s welcome on his return to Turkey, but a small group of critics said he hurt Turkey’s image by breaking diplomatic rules of courtesy and said he ruined ties with Israel. But despite initial tension, relations with Israel were soon back on track.

"Some countries may opt to remain silent. When it’s about Israel, different internal dynamics play out in many countries. But leaders of many countries have come to us to whisper, ‘we cannot say much, it is good that you did’," Babacan said in an interview on private Kanal 7 television. "We have close relations with Israel, but this does not mean we have to turn a blind eye when a mistake is made."

He underlined, however, that Turkey attached much importance to contacts with Israel and that problems could only be resolved through dialogue.

Commenting on relations with the United States after American lawmakers introduced a resolution to recognize the Armenian Genocide, Babacan reiterated that he hoped the US Congress will act sensibly because passage of the resolution could harm ongoing efforts between Turkey and Armenia to normalize relations.

"A step to be taken by a third country would harm the process. We hope no irrational step will be taken. We have been talking frankly about this to our American friends," Babacan said.

Babacan said it was still not clear whether Obama will also use Turkey as venue to deliver a long-anticipated address to the Muslim world or whether he will attend a UN-backed meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations, which will be held around the same dates in Istanbul.

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