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Peres Says Gaza Row Won't Affect Israel-Turkey Ties

Israeli President Shimon Peres says his heated public exchange on Gaza with Turkey's prime minister at the Davos summit was by no means personal and ties between the two nations won't be affected by the spat.

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, left, with Israeli President Shimon Peres

Erdogan, left, with Peres during the panel discussion on Gaza at the Davos summit

Shimon Peres played down the heated exchange over the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip with Erdogan at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday night, saying the incident would not cause strains between Israel and Turkey.

On Friday, Peres said he talked with Erdogan afterward the row and said: "My respect for him didn't change."

During the debate on the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, Peres made an impassioned defense of Israel's actions, raising his voice and jabbing his finger.

Peres, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in the 1990s to reach a deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization, questioned what Erdogan would do if rockets were fired at Istanbul every night.

A visibly angry Erdogan responded strongly to Peres' repeated question to the panel of what they would do in Israel's position.

Israeli President Shimon Peres, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

Erdogan storms past Peres and UN chief Ban Ki-Moon

"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," Erdogan said, through an interpreter.

Erdogan said Peres had spoken so loudly to conceal his "guilt," accusing him of "knowing very well how to kill babies."

The Turkish leader said many people had died in Gaza and he found it sad that anyone would applaud Peres for defending Israel's actions.

Erdogan then accused the moderator of not allowing him to speak and said he did not think he would return to Davos.

Erdogan gets hero's welcome in Istanbul

On Friday, thousands of Turks turned out at the airport in Istanbul to welcome Recep Tayyip Erdogan returning home from Davos.

The crowds waved Turkish and Palestinian flags and held up banners reading, "Welcome back conqueror of Davos," and "World, look at our prime minister."

Many Turks are deeply sympathetic to Palestinians and the recent Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip prompted scores of large pro-Gaza demonstrations in Istanbul and Ankara.

News agencies have reported that Erdogan's actions are likely to go down well with the electorate ahead of local elections in March.

The Turkish PM stressed later that he had left the debate not because of his disagreements with Peres but because he had been given much less time to speak than the Israeli leader.

At a press conference about an hour later with the Davos summit founder Klaus Schwab, Erdogan said he was upset because of the moderation style of David Ignatius from the Washington Post newspaper.

The Turkish leader said Peres was given 25 minutes to speak, more than twice the amount of time given to himself and Moussa, who was cut off by the moderator after 12 minutes.

"He addressed me in a style which does not fit in with the free discussion style of Davos. He raised his voice at me," said Erdogan of Peres' manner during the session.

Schwab said the incident was "regrettable" and did not fit with the "Davos spirit."

Erdogan says rhetoric meant for Israeli government

Turks wave flags to welcome Prime Minister Erdogan

Erdogan was treated like a hero by thousands of cheering supporters

Turkey, a NATO member, is one of the few Muslim countries to have dealings with Israel and the two have enjoyed good relations in recent years. But Erdogan has been a staunch critic of Israel's actions in Gaza.

Speaking to the crowds in Istanbul on Friday, Erdogan said that "our hard words are not directed towards the people of Israel, not directed at the Jews, but they are totally directed towards the government of Israel".

Some 1,300 Palestinians were killed during the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, along with 13 Israelis.

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