Turkey’s leader told a rally anti-Muslim Australians would be ‘sent back in coffins’ like their grandfathers in WWI.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday that her foreign minister will travel to Turkey to “confront” comments made by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the Christchurch mosque shootings that killed 50 people.
Erdogan, while campaigning for March 31 local elections, said on Tuesday that Turkey would make the suspected attacker pay if New Zealand did not.
He presented the attack as part of an assault on Turkey and Islam and warned anti-Muslim Australians would be “sent back in coffins” like their grandfathers at Gallipoli – a blood-drenched World War I battle.
More than 8,000 Australians died fighting Turkish forces at Gallipoli, which has a prominent place in Australia’s collective memory.
Erdogan’s comments included video footage of the shootings which the alleged gunman had broadcast on Facebook.
The Australian gunman, a self-avowed white supremacist from Australia, live streamed much of the attack and spread a manifesto on social media claiming it was an attack against Muslim “invaders”.
The manifesto referenced Turkey and the minarets of Istanbul’s famed Hagia Sophia, now a museum, that was once a church before becoming a mosque during the Ottoman empire.
Ardern said Foreign Minister Winston Peters would seek urgent clarification over the remarks during his visit.
“Our deputy prime minister will be confronting those comments in Turkey,” Ardern told reporters in Christchurch. “He is going there to set the record straight, face to face.”
Tough reaction from Australia
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday summoned the Turkish ambassador over Erdogan’s speech but dismissed the “excuses” offered.
“Remarks have been made by Turkish President Erdogan that I consider highly offensive to Australians and highly reckless in this very sensitive environment,” Morrison said.
“I am expecting, and I have asked, for these comments to be clarified, to be withdrawn … I expect that to occur,” said Morrison, who also faces an election challenge in the coming weeks.
In fiery remarks, Morrison accused Erdogan of betraying the promise of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk – the father of modern state and a revered figure in Turkey – to forge peace between the two countries.
Three Turkish nationals were wounded in the attacks that killed 50 worshippers at two mosques in the southern New Zealand city on Friday.