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Peres: Israeli, Turkish Ties Will Not Change


Israeli President Shimon Peres said his heated public spat with Turkey's prime minister was not personal and that ties between the two nations will not change.

Mr. Peres said he called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after Mr. Erdogan abruptly left a debate in anger Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The Israeli president said the two leaders simply had an exchange of views.

In Davos, Mr. Peres gave a lengthy defense of Israel's recent offensive in the Gaza Strip against the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Mr. Erdogan said he was angry he was not given enough time to respond to Mr. Peres' speech. The Turkish prime minister was cut off after accusing Mr. Peres of killing people.

The Turkish prime minister said his reproaches were not against the Israeli people or Jews, but against the Israeli administration.

Mr. Erdogan received a hero's welcome from thousands of supporters who greeted him upon his return to Istanbul on Friday. He told the crowd that Turkey will stand firm but will not get into conflict.

Thousands of members of Hamas also rallied in Gaza in support of the Turkish leader. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum issued a statement praising what he called Mr. Erdogan's brave position.

Majority Muslim Turkey has good ties with Israel, but Prime Minister Erdogan harshly criticized Israel during its three-week offensive against Hamas. He called Israeli actions in Gaza a "crime against humanity" and a blow to peace. He also accused the Jewish state of using "disproportionate force" against Hamas.

More than 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the Gaza conflict.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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