Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been challenged by New Zealand for his inflammatory comments in election rallies since the Christchurch mosque massacre on Friday, and Foreign Minister Winston Peters is now travelling to Turkey “to set the record straight” on the matter.
After showing extracts of the killer’s video of the massacre at political events, Erdogan at a rally in Canakkle near Gallipoli invoked the Anzac Gallipoli campaign in World War I, saying anyone who went to Turkey for anti-Muslim reasons would be returned “in coffins”, as their forebears were.
The Hurriyet news site reported that Erdogan referred to the failed invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula by Allied forces, including Australian and New Zealand troops, and said Turkey would “write history” again if anyone stood up and challenged Turks, Muslims and “all the oppressed.”
In a message to New Zealanders and Westerners, Erdogan had 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.”
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters protested that such politicization of the massacre “imperils the future and safety of the New Zealand people and our people abroad, and it’s totally unfair.”
Peters announced on Tuesday that he would be traveling to Turkey this week at Istanbul’s request to attend a special meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Three Turkish nationals were wounded in last week’s bloody rampage, that killed 50 worshipers at two mosques in the southern New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday.
Peters said he had complained directly to visiting Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
“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,” Peters 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,” he said.
Speaking Tuesday of the upcoming OIC meeting in Istanbul, Peters said: “This important event will allow New Zealand to join with our partners in standing against terrorism and speaking up for values such as understanding and religious tolerance.”
“We are very clear that the terrorist attack in Christchurch, committed by a person who is not a New Zealander, is utterly contrary to our core beliefs,” he said.
AFP contributed to this report
Follow Simon Kent on Twitter: Follow @SunSimonKent or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org