|Erdogan’s walkout may have focused delegates’ minds on the carnage in Gaza [AFP]|
Day three of the World Economic Forum and it’s still wonderful skiing weather; clear blue skies and wonderful powder on the pistes.
While it may be snowing outside, the temperature was very suddenly raised at the Forum late on Thursday evening.
I had just closed an interview with Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president, about the arrest of General Laurent Nkunda, the commander of a rebel Tutsi force in the Democratic Republic of Congo, when we saw the live footage from the main Congress Hall.
A very angry Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, was walking out of a session in protest at the content of a speech given by Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, over Gaza.
David Ignatius of the Washington Post newspaper was chairing the session, entitled “Gaza: The Case for Middle East Peace”. Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, was also on the platform.
Ignatius must be regretting now that he didn’t give Erdogan more time to reply.
Erdogan was furious, gesturing and shouting at the organisers for stopping him from responding sufficiently to a lengthy speech given by Peres.
He left the Forum immediately and flew back to Istanbul where he received a hero’s welcome at the airport.
The row may be something of a wake-up call after so much finger-pointing about who was to blame for the global economic meltdown.
Perhaps it will have given some delegates cause to reassess their priorities, while thinking about the carnage visited upon Gaza.
I remember a different internal row here two years ago when the founder of the Forum had to apologise after an in-house article in the Forum’s Global Agenda called for a boycott of Israel.
Klaus Schwab, the man behind Davos, was forced to issue a grovelling apology and explain that the views were in contradiction of his own.
‘Gloom and doom’
Up until Erdogan’s walkout, Davos had been a subdued event this year and as Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the former Nigerian minister and now managing director of the World Bank, told me its all “gloom and doom” inside the conference.
She was talking to me at the Al Jazeera studio overlooking the Alpine valley where Davos is perched on the side of the mountain.
We have built a studio in a former sanatorium called the Dutch clinic, where doctors would send patients suffering from tuberculosis to recover in the fresh mountain air.
The town of Davos, which is basically one long street, is at least a mile above sea-level and the air is crystal clear, useful, perhaps as the forum hopes for some clear thinking about climate change.
The aim is to get a resolution on a global climate change agreement at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen later this year.
They are joining the rest of the queue in hoping that Barack Obama, the new US president, will carry through on his promise to take a lead on climate change.
Obama’s most senior aide to visit Davos is Valerie Jarrett, fresh from her first week in the new US administration.
She reinforced the president’s call on leaders from all nations to “seize gladly” the duties of collaborating and boldly embrace “a new era of global financial responsibility – to each other, to our families, to our communities, to our country and to the world”.
Bill Clinton, the former US president, is also here – he’s a favourite of the Forum and he too called for the US to take the lead to stem the current financial crisis and restore the global economy.
Clinton highlighted the opportunities afforded by a fundamental review of the global financial system, predicting an explosion of jobs from government stimulus-fuelled investments in alternative energy technologies.
However, “the main thing is to get through this as fast as we can”, said Clinton.
The former president applauded what he predicted would be a coming reassessment of global trading and development policies, in particular a return to supporting agricultural programmes in the developing world.
“People are frightened out there,” said Clinton.
“There’s a lot of fear out there in the economy. So, I don’t think that now is the best time in the world to get new trade agreements. But I also believe that intelligent people all over the world will see that it is not necessarily the time to pick new fights, either.”
“We have to get out of this together.”