Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan's comments about Anzacs spark diplomatic row

7:28 pm on 20 March 2019

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has called in Turkey's ambassador to New Zealand to explain inflammatory comments made by the country's president in the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan


Speaking at a campaign rally in northern Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticised the Anzacs for their role in Gallipoli and threatened to send New Zealanders and Australians who came to his country with anti-Islam sentiment, back in a casket.

"Your grandparents came here... and they returned in caskets. Have no doubt, we will send you back like your grandfathers."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern discussed Mr Erdogan's comments as part of a press conference in Christchurch today.

She said Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters would confront those issues while in Turkey.

But Ms Ardern said she did not anticipate a change in New Zealand's relationship with that country.

"It is so deeply entrenched. They have cared for our fallen.

"I reject the idea we are losing that relationship."

Mr Peters left the country today, headed for Turkey after a stop in Indonesia to express his condolences for the Indonesian killed in the Christchurch attacks.

Speaking in Indonesia, on his way to Turkey said it would be premature to review New Zealand's travel advisory on Turkey.

He said yesterday he planned to address Mr Erdogan's comments when he got to Turkey.

Mr Erdogan's comments have sparked a diplomatic row and just a month out from the Gallipoli commemorations in Turkey when tens of thousands of Australians and New Zealanders gather, Australia is reviewing its travel advice to the country.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described Mr Erdogan's comments as reckless and deeply offensive.

"I don't find these comments very helpful, I don't find them very accurate or truthful as well because the actions of the Australian and the New Zealand governments have been consistent with our values of welcome and supporting people from all around the world".

Mr Morrison today summoned the Turkish ambassador to Australia to his office to demand the comments be withdrawn and said further diplomatic action could follow if they were not.

"I have asked for these comments, particularly the reporting of the misrepresented position of Australia on Turkish television, the state-sponsored broadcaster, to be taken down".

Mr Morrison said the ambassador suggested that Mr Erdogan, who was in the midst of election campaigning, made the comments in the heat of the moment.

But Mr Morrison said those excuses did not wash with him.

Mr Erdogan also used a political rally to play parts of a video live-streamed by the Christchurch gunman - despite New Zealand's request for the distressing and violent footage not be distributed - as a tool to stoke nationalist and religious sentiment.

ACT leader David Seymour said he hoped Mr Peters would protest when he was in Turkey in the strongest possible terms.

"Somebody who politically campaigns off the back of this tragedy in any country is morally deplorable and we should be taking the strongest possible stance to stand up for that principle and show those values."

Justice Minister Andrew Little said any security fears around the Gallipoli commemorations in Turkey would continue to be monitored.

New Zealand's travel advice to Turkey has not changed but travellers are being told that international reactions to the mosque shootings are difficult to predict and may change at short notice.


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