DOHA // The plight of the Palestinians prompted the biggest applause yesterday at a United Nations summit here.
In a video address, the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told about 2,000 people from 130 countries at the UN Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC) conference, that the issue of the Palestinians' need for a state of their own stood in the way of peace, even as the Arab Spring brings change throughout the region.
We "put particular emphasis ... on the Middle East to resolve in the Middle East, to sate the tears and sorrow for the Middle East", said Mr Erdogan, who is recovering from surgery and could not attend the conference.
"We have to put an end to state terrorism. As long as innocent people are bombarded and victimised, we can't find peace in the Middle East."
The statement earned the first sustained applause of the session.
Mr Erdogan is one of the architects of the UNAOC, created after the September 11 attacks to ensure moderate voices are heard amid heightened tensions between the West and the Arab world,
The Turkish leader yesterday expressed his disappointment at the US's decision to cut off a $60 million (Dh220.3m) payment to be made last month to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) after it accepted Palestine as a full member. "Palestine joined Unesco and the US stopped supporting it. Turkey will fund Unesco along with other nations," Mr Erdogan said.
"I'm sure other nations will join us. We can have peace."
Mr Erdogan recalled the UNAOC conference in Brazil last year, which followed an Israeli raid on a Turkish ship carrying aid to Gaza that left nine Turkish civilians dead.
"While we were struggling for global peace, prosperity and justice in Rio, peace, prosperity and international law were violated and sabotaged in the Mediterranean," Mr Erdogan said.
"There are other nations who are shooting their own people. They're intolerant. The issue is if this continues, we can't find peace."
Mr Erdogan's comments came after US Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said in a television interview that the Palestinians were "invented" people, implying he opposed the long-standing US position of a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Mr Gingrich's spokesman, RC Hammond, issued a clarification on Saturday, saying, "Newt Gingrich supports a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, which will necessarily include agreement between Israel and the Palestinians over the borders of a Palestinian state".
Manuel Chavez, vice president of Spain, told the audience in Doha that "there should be ... a final resolution to Palestine and Israel. Two states living side by side, respecting each other".
Other speakers at the conference included the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, who cited events as disparate as the Arab Spring uprisings to the killings by Norwegian anti-Muslim extremist Anders Behring Breivik.
He said hearing the people of Oslo reaffirm their commitment to peace in light of Breivik's massacre was instructive and that such dialogue can prevent hatred being sowed when terrorists attack and kill innocent people.
About the Arab Spring, Mr Ban said: "In some of these countries, the transition has been peaceful and others have had bloody crackdowns. There is considerable scope to help these countries shape their future."
The UAE delegation at the conference was chaired by HH Sheikh Saud bin Rashid Al Mu'alla, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Umm Al Qaiwain. UAE Ambassador to Qatar Juma Rashid Saif Al Dhaheri and Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al-Owais, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, also attended. according to WAM, the state news agency.
* With additional reporting by the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse