21 Mar 2019

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan praises Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after controversial comments

10:33 am on 21 March 2019

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has penned an op-ed praising Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, saying world leaders must learn from her "courage, leadership and sincerity".

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has penned an op-ed praising Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has penned an op-ed praising Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: RNZ/AFP

Mr Erdogan sparked a diplomatic row after criticising Anzacs for their role in Gallipoli and threatening to send New Zealanders and Australians who came to his country with anti-Islam sentiment back in a casket.

He has also showed at political rallies parts of a video of the terrorist attacks at Christchurch mosques where 50 people were killed.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has asked Turkey's ambassador to explain the comments, and the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has summoned the Turkish ambassador to his office to demand the comments be withdrawn.

Tens of thousands of Australians and New Zealanders gather in Turkey every year in Gallipoli to mark Anzac Day, and Australia is reviewing its travel advice to the country.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Winston Peters is on his way to Turkey and says he will address Mr Erdogan's comments while there.

In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Mr Erdogan said the perpetrator of the mosque terrorist killings in Christchurch and Islamic State (IS) both have a similar, "twisted" ideology and world view.

IS terror attacks were used by Western politicians to commentators to smear all Muslims, he said.

Winston Peters

Minster of Foreign Affairs and Trade Winston Peters Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

After the Christchurch massacre the West had the responsibility to "reject the normalization of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia, which has been on the rise in recent years".

"Moreover, we must shed light on all aspects of what happened and fully understand how the terrorist became radicalised and his links to terrorist groups to prevent future tragedies.

"Finally, all Western leaders must learn from the courage, leadership and sincerity of New Zealand's prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, to embrace Muslims living in their respective countries," Mr Erdogan said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Photo: Supplied

Analysis: What's going on with Turkey's president?

For many, the leader of a Nato member appearing to exploit New Zealand's grief, repeatedly playing footage that's been condemned around the world and removed from 1.5 million Facebook sites is at once baffling and galling. This is, in fact, vintage Erdogan, writes BBC Turkey correspondent Mark Lowen.

He likes to portray himself as the leader of the Muslim world, despatching his deputy and foreign minister to New Zealand shortly after the shootings, and has long railed at the West for its treatment of Muslims, denouncing among other issues the term "Islamist terrorism".

Mr Erdogan thrives on creating an enemy, depicting Turkey as under threat and himself as its saviour. Never more so than before an election, Lowen said.

Facing local polls this month which could pose a serious challenge to his party, amid high inflation, unemployment and a tumbling currency, Mr Erdogan has gone into classic diversionary attack mode.

Before a referendum he fought two years ago, Germany and the Netherlands became the target, after banning Turkish ministers from holding rallies there. President Erdogan labelled them "Nazis" and "fascists" - and that became virtually the entire focus of the campaign.

Lowen said in previous rallies, he has called out media outlets including the BBC, turning his supporters' sights on foreign reporting about Turkey.

Other regular targets are the United States, Israel, the UN - and of course an array of domestic enemies, including Kurdish militants and those behind the 2016 failed coup.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaking next to a model dinosaur during the opening ceremony of the Wonderland Eurasia theme park in Ankara.

Mr Erdogan speaking during the opening ceremony of the Wonderland Eurasia theme park in Ankara. Photo: AFP

It feeds the conspiracy theories of a nation taught from school of how the West tried to dismember Turkey, a well-known motto being "the only friend of a Turk is a Turk", Lowen said.

And most of all, it plays directly to his conservative, pious support base, who lap up his strongman rhetoric. His half of the country is, after all, the only one he needs for electoral success yet again.

The other more pro-Western and secular side of dangerously polarised Turkey is, as ever, dismayed, the opposition spokesman decrying "point-scoring" by showing the Christchurch video.


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