Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ordered his government to boycott the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, over its stance on the Israel-Palestine War, which has killed more than 23,000 Palestinians and displaced nearly 2 million in Gaza since October 2023.
Turkey’s treasury and finance minister, Mehmet Simsek, who was scheduled to attend the annual gathering of the global business and political elite from 15 to 19 January, was instructed by Erdogan not to go, according to Bloomberg.
Erdogan, who has been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause and a critic of Israel’s actions in Gaza, said that the WEF had failed to address the humanitarian crisis and the violations of international law in the region.
“The World Economic Forum has lost its credibility by ignoring the genocide in Gaza and by siding with Israel, which is a war criminal. We will not participate in such a forum that is indifferent to the suffering of the Palestinian people,” Erdogan said in a televised speech on Tuesday.
Erdogan also accused some Western countries, especially the US and the UK, of being complicit in Israel’s aggression and of blocking any efforts to end the war and lift the blockade on Gaza.
He said that Turkey, which has provided humanitarian aid and medical treatment to the Palestinians, would continue to stand by them and to seek a just and lasting solution to the conflict.
“We will not remain silent in the face of the injustice and oppression in Gaza. We will continue to raise our voice and to use all diplomatic and legal means to stop the Israeli occupation and to secure the rights of the Palestinians,” he said.
Turkey’s decision to skip the WEF over the war in Gaza has drawn mixed reactions from the international community.
Some countries and organizations, such as South Africa, Iran, Qatar, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), have praised Turkey for its solidarity with the Palestinians and its principled stance against Israel.
South Africa, which has brought a case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing it of genocide and asking for an order to halt its offensive in Gaza, said that it welcomed Turkey’s boycott of the WEF and that it hoped that more countries would follow suit.
“We commend Turkey for its courageous and moral decision to boycott the World Economic Forum, which has shown a blatant bias towards Israel and a disregard for the plight of the Palestinians. We call on other countries that value human rights and international law to join Turkey in this boycott and to isolate Israel until it stops its atrocities in Gaza,” said Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s foreign minister, in a statement.
The West Response
However, some countries and organizations, such as Israel, the US, the UK, and the European Union (EU), have criticized Turkey for its boycott of the WEF and its rhetoric against Israel.
They said that Turkey’s move was counterproductive and that it undermined the efforts to find a peaceful and negotiated solution to the conflict.
They also said that the WEF was an important platform for dialogue and cooperation on global issues and that Turkey’s absence would be a loss for the international community.
“We regret Turkey’s decision to boycott the World Economic Forum, which is a valuable opportunity for constructive engagement and collaboration on the challenges facing the world. We urge Turkey to reconsider its position and to join us in Davos, where we hope to advance the prospects for peace and stability in the Middle East and beyond,” said Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, in a press conference.
The WEF itself issued a statement expressing its disappointment over Turkey’s boycott and its hope that Turkey would resume its participation in the future.
The WEF said that it respected Turkey’s views and concerns on the Israel-Palestine War, but that it believed that dialogue and cooperation were the best ways to address them.
The WEF also said that it had invited representatives from both Israel and Palestine to the forum, where they would have the chance to exchange views and perspectives on the situation and the possible solutions.
“The World Economic Forum is saddened by Turkey’s decision to boycott our annual meeting, which aims to bring together leaders from all sectors and regions to shape a more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient future. We respect Turkey’s sovereign right to make its own decisions, but we hope that Turkey will reconsider its stance and rejoin our community of stakeholders, who are committed to improving the state of the world,” said Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the WEF, in a statement.