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Turkey's Erdogan orders officials to skip Davos over Gaza war: Report

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stormed out of Davos in 2009 during a debate with then-Israeli President Shimon Peres over Gaza
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, wearing a scarf with Palestinian and Turkish flags, stands on stage during a rally organised by AKP party in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, in Istanbul on 28 October 2023 (AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ordered his government to boycott the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, over its stance on the Israel-Palestine War.

Turkey’s treasury and finance minister, Mehmet Simsek, was planning to attend the event, which is a meeting place for the global business and political elite, but was instructed by Erdogan not to go, according to Bloomberg.

Erdogan has long been a supporter of the Palestinian cause and has strongly condemned Israel’s offensive on Gaza.

Western allies in Jordan and the Gulf states have also offered rhetorical support for the Palestinians, but Erdogan has been more vocal in supporting Hamas, putting him at odds with Europe and the US which consider Hamas a "terror" group. 

Erdogan has called Hamas “a liberation group” and slammed Israel as a “war criminal”. Hamas officials have also used Turkey, along with Qatar and Lebanon, as a base. 

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The World Economic Forum itself issued a relatively muted statement following the 7 October Hamas-led attack on Israel, saying it “deeply mourns the tragic loss of life of so many civilians in Israel and Gaza”.

But according to Bloomberg, Turkish officials were upset when Klaus Schwab, the Davos forum’s founder and executive chairman, called the Hamas-led attacks, “terrorist attacks against Israel".

Turkey’s decision to skip the conference over the war in Gaza makes it stand out among other Middle Eastern countries, including those that have positioned themselves as staunch advocates of Palestine.

Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani is slated to attend Davos, along with Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shiaa' al-Sudani. The Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia will also be at the event.

Iraq's parliament has passed a law that makes it a crime to normalise ties with Israel, but the Iraqi leader is travelling to Davos to drum up investments in his country’s beleaguered economy.

Israel will also have a strong presence at the conference. Israeli President Isaac Herzog is slated to speak on Thursday and the Israeli delegation will show a private screening of footage of the 7 October Hamas-led attacks, when 1040 people were killed and 240 were taken back to Gaza as hostages. At least 100 remain in captivity.

Israel responded to the Hamas-led assault by pounding Gaza with air strikes and launching a ground invasion.

More than 24,000 Palestinians, mainly women and children, have been killed by the offensive and an estimated 70 percent of homes in Gaza have been damaged or destroyed by Israeli air strikes.

This is not the first time Erdogan has used Davos to flex his support for Palestine. In 2009, he stormed out of a live debate with Israel’s then-President Shimon Peres over Israel’s offensive on Gaza the previous year.

He told moderator David Ignatius, “I don't think I will come back to Davos after this."

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