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June 22, 2012 4:04 pm

Erdogan Engages Chabad Rabbis at Rio+20, Promises to Protect Turkey’s Jews

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey storms out of a World Economic Forum session after haranguing Israel's President Shimon Peres. Photo: WEF.

Two American Jewish rabbis encountered Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the Rio+20: UN Conference on Sustainable Development, and asked him “to protect” Jewish people living in Turkey according to Turkish state owned news agency Anatolia.

According to the report, he responded by saying that “under my leadership, the Jewish community in Turkey is safe, they are under my protection. We see (them) as brothers.”

The Algemeiner identified the rabbis as brothers Avraham and Yirmi Berkowitz of Chabad Lubavitch. “It was a chance meeting,” they told The Algemeiner, “we mentioned the ancient and prestigious history of Jews in Turkey, which the Prime Minister acknowledged.”

“Erdogan also mentioned Chief Rabbi Rabbi Yitzchak Haleva by name saying that he ‘is like a brother to me,'” they said.

The report claimed that the rabbis asked Erdogan “what he thought about the people of Israel,” and that he responded by saying, “We have no problem with the Israeli people. Our problem is the aggressive behavior of the Israeli government. We have to find solutions to problems in the Middle East. The Israelis have to treat the Palestinians better.”

The rabbis told The Algemeiner that they responded by saying, “that the people of Israel don’t want to kill anyone, we love life and hate death, but the State of Israel needs to be able to defend itself and needs to have secure borders.”

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