Middle East

'Deeply offended' PM demands Turkey’s Erdogan withdraws Gallipoli 'coffins' comment

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has drawn a sharp rebuke from Scott Morrison for a controversial speech.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has demanded Turkish president Tayipp Erdogan withdraw his comments threatening to send visitors from Australia and New Zealand back "in coffins".

The Turkish strongman made references to the death of Anzac troops during the WWI Gallipoli campaign as he ramped up rhetoric in the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks.

He told a rally of supports any visitors with anti-Muslim views “would be sent back in coffins like their grandfathers", referencing allied casualties during the bloody campaign. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison summoned the Turkish ambassador over the comments on Wednesday.

Scott Morrison says he's deeply offended by the Turkish president's remarks on Gallipoli.
Scott Morrison says he's deeply offended by the Turkish president's remarks on Gallipoli.
AAP

Speaking with reporters after the meeitng, Mr Morrison said he rejected “excuses” from the Turkish ambassador to Australia offered during the meeting at Parliament House this morning. 

“I was just deeply offended, as any Australian would be. The first thing that came to my mind was the promise of (Mustafa Kemal) Ataturk - Ataturk sought to transform his country into a modern nation and, an embracing nation, and I think these comments are at odds with that spirit and the promise that was made to Australians," Mr Morrison said.

“I believe the comments also completely misrepresent the very strong position taken by the Australian and New Zealand governments in our response to the extremist attack in New Zealand that was committed by an Australian, but in no way, shape, or form, could possibly be taken to represent the actions, or any policy or view of the Australian people.”

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has played parts of the alleged gunman's video as part of his rallies.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has played parts of the alleged gunman's video as part of his rallies.
AP

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a Turkish military hero and revolutionary, founded the modern Republic of Turkey following WWI.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten announced on Wednesday that he had contacted Mr Morrison to offer a "joint approach" to the comments and had also spoken to the Turkish ambassador in Australia.

"I think the remarks of the Turkish President were foolish and they were offensive," he said.

"What I also understand, though - this might comfort for Australians who are upset by the remarks - there is an election in Turkey, a domestic election within the next 10 days. 

"It is not unknown for domestic politicians in domestic elections to say inflammatory things about matters beyond their borders."

Travel advice under review

Tour companies that take Australians to Gallipoli for Anzac Day say their plans have not been rattled by the comments.

Australia's travel advice to Turkey is under review, despite already being set at "exercise a high degree of caution", due to the high threat of terrorism.

But tour companies Fanatics and Intrepid say they aren't planning to cancel their upcoming Anzac Day offerings.

Such controversy is not new, a spokesperson for Fanatics says.

"Each year there always seems to be an issue brought up on the eve of the Gallipoli ceremonies but we are in close contact with DFAT (the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) and we expect our tours to go ahead without any issues," they said.

"We have always enjoyed a healthy relationship with our Turkish hosts and have been running tours to Gallipoli for over two decades."

Intrepid said the safety of its travellers is its first priority, and it expects regular updates from its local operators and Australian authorities.

But it's not cancelling tours at the moment, and nobody who has signed up to one has done so.

"We do encourage any of our customers who have concerns to reach out to us directly," Global Product and Operations Manager Jenny Gray said.

Mr Shorten said it "would be a shame" if Australians were forced to cancel travel plans.

In the same speech, Mr Erdogan also called on New Zealand to restore the death penalty for the gunman who killed 50 people at two Christchurch mosques, warning that Turkey would make the attacker pay for his act if New Zealand did not. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly use footage of the Christchurch attack during election rallies.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly use footage of the Christchurch attack during election rallies.
AAP

“Your grandparents came here... and they returned in coffins. Have no doubt we will send you back like your grandfathers,” Mr Erdogan told an election rally of thousands in northern Turkey on Tuesday. 

"You heinously killed 50 of our siblings. You will pay for this. If New Zealand doesn't make you, we know how to make you pay one way or another," Mr Erdogan.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday after a lone gunman opened fire at the two mosques during Muslim Friday prayers.

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'Frustrated' families of Christchurch shooting victims forced to await Islamic burials
'Frustrated' families of Christchurch shooting victims forced to await Islamic burials

Mr Erdogan said Turkey was wrong to have abolished the death penalty 15 years ago, and added that New Zealand should make legal arrangements so that the Christchurch gunman could face capital punishment.

"If the New Zealand parliament doesn't make this decision, I will continue to argue this with them constantly. The necessary action needs to be taken," he said.

Mr Erdogan is seeking to drum up support for his Islamist-rooted AK Party in March 31 local elections.

Female Muslim worshipers grieve at a makeshift memorial at the Al Noor Mosque on Deans Rd in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Female Muslim worshipers grieve at a makeshift memorial at the Al Noor Mosque on Deans Rd in Christchurch, New Zealand.
AAP

At weekend election rallies he showed video footage of the shootings which the gunman had broadcast on Facebook, as well as extracts from a "manifesto" posted by the attacker and later taken down.

That also earned a rebuke from NZ Foreign Minister Winston Peters, who said he told Turkey's foreign minister and vice president that showing the video could endanger New Zealanders abroad.

"We made it very clear that we oppose terrorism in whatever shape and form it might be and that we are for a free and open society," he said he told the Turkish officials.

"We had a long dialogue on the need for any other country, or Turkey for that matter, to ensure that our country, New Zealand, was not misrepresented," he told a press conference.

"We did not start or bring about this disaster and they clearly understood that."

Despite Mr Peters' intervention, an extract from the manifesto was flashed up on a screen at Mr Erdogan's rally again on Tuesday, as well as brief footage of the gunman entering one of the mosques and shooting as he approached the door.

New Zealand deputy PM Winston Peters
New Zealand deputy PM Winston Peters
AAP

Mr Erdogan has said the gunman issued threats against Turkey and the president himself, and wanted to drive Turks from Turkey's northwestern, European region.

Majority Muslim Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, is split between an Asian part east of the Bosphorus, and a European half to the west.

Mr Erdogan's AK Party, which has dominated Turkish politics for more than 16 years, is battling for votes as the economy tips into recession after years of strong growth.

Mr Erdogan has cast the local elections as a "matter of survival" in the face of threats including Kurdish militants, Islamophobia and incidents such as the New Zealand shootings.

A senior Turkish security source said Tarrant entered Turkey twice in 2016 - for a week in March and for more than a month in September. Turkish authorities have begun investigating everything from hotel records to camera footage to try to ascertain the reason for his visits, the source said.

WHAT IS GOING ON BETWEEN AUSTRALIA AND TURKEY?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told an election rally held on the Gallipoli Peninsula that Australia and New Zealand had sent troops to the area in the First World War with anti-Muslim motives.

"Your grandparents came, some of them returned in coffins," the president said. "If you come as well like your grandfathers, be sure that you will be gone like your grandfathers."

He also called on New Zealand to restore the death penalty for the Australian accused of attacking Christchurch mosques, warned that Turkey would make the perpetrator pay if New Zealand did not, and said the attack was evidence of a global anti-Muslim sentiment. Mr Erdogan has also reportedly been playing clips of the live-streamed video of the mosque attack at political rallies since it occurred on Friday.

Turkey will hold local elections on March 31.

HOW HAS AUSTRALIA RESPONDED?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison hauled Turkish ambassador Korhan Karakoc in for a dressing down on Wednesday over the comments he decried as "highly offensive to Australians and highly reckless in this very sensitive environment".

He also said it went against the promise of Turkey's first president Mustafa Kemal Ataturk - etched in stone at Gallipoli - that soldiers who died there were in the soil of a friendly country. Mr Morrison said he did not accept the excuses offered that Mr Erdogan had made the remarks in the heat of the moment in an election context, and Australia was still considering its options.

He wants Mr Erdogan to clarify and withdraw his comments and for reporting on Turkish state-owned television that misrepresents Australia's position to be taken down.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said they were "foolish and offensive remarks" to make at a time when New Zealanders were mourning.

WHAT DID THE AMBASSADOR SAY?

Mr Karakoc told reporters on his way out of Parliament House: "We had a frank exchange with the prime minister and the Gallipoli spirit will always remain."

WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS?

Officials are reviewing travel advice for Turkey, where thousands of Australians would be planning to go next month for Anzac Day services. Other diplomatic options available would include asking for a formal apology or kicking out the ambassador.

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