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Turkish President warns NZ over mosque attacks, invokes Gallipoli

The New Zealand Herald
Tuesday March 19, 2019

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’an explosive comments came as he campaigns for March 31 municipal elections for his AKP party. Picture: Ozan Kose/AFP

Turkish President President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has invoked the Anzacs' Gallipoli campaign in World War I in responding to the mosque attacks in Christchurch, saying anyone who went to Turkey for anti-Muslim reasons would be returned "in coffins", as their grandfathers were.

The Hurriyet news site reported that Erdogan had referred to the failed invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula by allied forces, including the Australian and New Zealand troops, in World War I and said Turkey would "write history" again if anyone stood against Turks, Muslims and all the oppressed.

In a message apparently aimed at New Zealanders and Westerners, Erdogan said: "Your grandparents came, some of them returned in coffins. If you come as well like your grandfathers, be sure that you will be gone like your grandfathers," he said.

Erdogan, who is on the campaign trail before Turkey's elections later this month, was speaking at Canakkale, near the Gallipoli peninsula, at an event to mark the defeat of the Allied forces.

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He said "the enemies of Muslims have shown that they continue to hate us".

"They are testing us from 16,500km away, from New Zealand, with the messages they are giving from there. This is not an individual attack, it is organised."

It comes after Erdogan used the footage of the gunman's attack in one of his election campaign rallies to highlight Islamophobia in Western countries.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters is now due to travel to Indonesia and Turkey and said he would use those trip to talk to governments in those countries about the attacks.

"I met with Turkish Vice President Oktay, and Foreign Minister Cavusologlu on Sunday evening, and discussed New Zealand's significant response and how we have condemned this terrorist attack by a foreign national.

The Turkish delegation left with a clearer understanding of the situation in Christchurch, having seen first-hand the efforts of the New Zealand Government in supporting the Muslim community."

Peters has aleady voiced concern about the safety of New Zealanders travelling overseas.

Earlier he had rebuked Erdogan's use of that footage and Erdogan's comments about New Zealand, saying he had told Turkey's Foreign Minister that it was unfair and dangerous to blame New Zealand.

"Anything of that nature that misrepresents this country, given that this was a non-New Zealand citizen, imperils the future and safety of the New Zealand people and our people abroad and is totally unfair."

Erdogan has also started an inquiry into why the alleged terrorist, Australian man Branton Tarrant, had visited Turkey in the years prior to the attack.

He has said it was also a threat to Turkey - referring to comments about Turkey, its Muslim population and Erdogan in the terrorist's manifesto.

Erdogan said he had spoken to New Zealand's Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy to emphasise New Zealand should respond seriously. He had also dispatched Turkey's Vice President and Foreign Minister to New Zealand to visit the three Turkish people who were injured in the attack, and meet Government officials.

The fiery address will heighten New Zealand authorities' concerns about the reaction internationally to the mosque attacks.

It is something of a pilgrimage for New Zealanders and Australians to visit Gallipoli on Anzac Day every day - a date that is now just one month away. While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued general advice to New Zealanders to be cautious about any adverse reaction overseas, it has not yet issued advice specific to any one country.

It is understood some New Zealand missions overseas have reported concerns about hostility toward New Zealanders in the days after the attack last Friday. New Zealand is expected to soon boost its diplomatic response, especially in countries with significant Muslim populations, to try to limit any response.

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