ISTANBUL, (AFP) –returned home to a hero's welcome Friday after storming off the stage at the World Economic Forum during a spat over Israel's war in the Gaza Strip.
Around 3,000 followers gathered at Istanbul's Ataturk airport, draped in red and white Turkish flags, to acclaim Erdogan as he flew back overnight from the Swiss resort of Davos.
Many carried banners denouncing Israel, even though Turkey is traditionally the Jewish state's closest ally in the Muslim world.
"I did what I had to do," he told reporters gathered at the airport.
"I cannot remain apathetic when it comes to these things, it's just not in my nature. I am duty-bound to defend the honour of my country."
In one of the most dramatic moments seen at the normally restrained Davos meetings, Erdogan marched off in front of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other panel members on Thursday complaining that his comments on Israel's recent war on the Gaza Strip were cut short.
"I do not think I will be coming back to Davos after this because you do not let me speak," the prime minister shouted as he left, though he said later he could reconsider.
Erdogan criticised the audience for applauding veteran's emotional defence of Israel's war against the Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza, which left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead.
Erdogan, who has sought a peacemaker's role in the Middle East conflict, said Israel had carried out "barbarian" actions in Gaza.
Speaking on his arrival in Istanbul, Erdogan said that he was not "at heart a diplomat but a politician".
Peres, a winner of the Nobel peace prize, later rang Erdogan to apologise, Turkey's Anatolia news agency reported.
p/s: Sepatutnya Peres patut diperlakukan begitu. Ban Kim Moon hanya mampu melihat menampakkan tiada karisma sebagai SU Agung PBB. Pengerusi forum pula bertindak berat sebelah. Ternyata Israel mula sedar bahawa Turki yang selama ini ada hubungan diplomatik dengannya pun, tidak membiarkan kezaliman itu diakui sebagai tindakan yang betul. Hancur Israel !