Last updated: 5 June, 2012

Turkey’s Erdogan slams Israel over ‘open-air prison’ in Gaza

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday used his keynote address at a regional World Economic Forum meeting to slam Israel over conditions in the Gaza Strip.

“People are being jailed in the world’s largest open-air prison,” Erdogan said, referring to Israel’s nearly six-year-old blockade of Gaza, one of the issues that has led to a crumbling of ties between onetime allies.

In 2009, Erdogan provoked a spat with Israeli President Shimon Peres and stormed out of an annual WEF meeting in Davos, Switzerland, after accusing Israel of “murdering innocents by air strikes.”

A staunch supporter of a sovereign Palestinian state, Erdogan on Tuesday also called on business people to channel investment to impoverished parts of the world, including the occupied Palestinian Territories.

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, who took the stage after Erdogan, urged the world to address the deadlocked peace process between Israel and the Palestinians to bring stability to the volatile region.

“The ongoing Israeli occupation does not allow an economic cycle to occur in our lands. … horizons for investment are elusive in Palestine,” Abbas said, speaking in Arabic.

More than 1,000 business and government representatives are attending the two-day WEF meeting for the Middle Eastern, north African and Eurasian region.

The focus this year is on investment opportunities in Arab Spring countries, where unemployment is considered one of the main drivers of the popular uprisings that began in early 2011.

The forum will continue Wednesday with sessions on social transition in the region, meeting growth and employment challenges, and local governance.