Turkish President Erdogan – who is seeking to drum up support for his Islamist-rooted AK Party in March 31 local elections – said Turkey would make the suspected attacker pay if New Zealand did not.
WELLINGTON (Agencies) — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday Foreign Minister Winston Peters will travel to Turkey to “confront” comments made by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on the killing of at least 50 people at mosques in Christchurch.
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 Friday prayers.
Erdogan – who is seeking to drum up support for his Islamist-rooted AK Party in March 31 local elections – said Turkey would make the suspected attacker pay if New Zealand did not.
The comments came at a campaign rally that included video footage of the shootings which the alleged gunman had broadcast on Facebook.
“You heinously killed 50 of our siblings. You will pay for this,” Mr Erdogan told an election rally of thousands in northern Turkey.
Making reference to Turkey’s victory over Australian and New Zealand troops in Gallipoli, the Turkish President threatened that anyone who came to Turkey with anti-Muslim sentiments would be sent back in coffins.
Tarrant visited Turkey at least twice in the past few years, Turkish officials said. A 74-page manifesto purportedly written by Tarrant and circulated online threatened violence against Turkey, its citizens, and its president.
Erdogan’s name appears under a section titled, “Kill High Profile Enemies,” along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
It also warns Turkey’s citizens against living on the European side of Istanbul. “We are coming for Constantinople and we will destroy every mosque and minaret in the city,” it said, referring to the city.
Turkey’s main opposition party has also criticised Mr Erdogan for showing the clip “for the sake of [winning] three or five votes” at the elections.
But Mr Erdogan has continued to air the video and share an extract from the shooter’s manifesto during his speeches.
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.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Peters would seek urgent clarification.
“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.” Peters had earlier condemned the airing of footage of the shooting, which he said could endanger New Zealanders aboard.
Peters, speaking to reporters Monday after a weekly cabinet meeting, said he had raised Erdogan’s use of the footage with an official Turkish delegation visiting New Zealand.
Peters said he told Turkish officials “that 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 it’s totally unfair.”
Despite Peters’ intervention, an extract from Tarrant’s alleged manifesto was flashed up on a screen at Erdogan’s rally again on Tuesday, along with footage of the gunman entering one of the mosques and shooting as he approached the door.
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he summoned Turkey’s ambassador for a meeting, during which he demanded Erdogan’s comments be removed from Turkey’s state broadcaster.
“I will wait to see what the response is from the Turkish government before taking further action, but I can tell you that all options are on the table,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
Morrison said Australia’s ambassador to Turkey was expected on Wednesday to meet with the members of Erdogan’s government. Morrison said Canberra is also reconsidering its travel advice for Australians planning trips to Turkey.
Turkey – New Zealand, Australia relations
Relations between Turkey, New Zealand and Australia have generally been good. Thousands of Australians and New Zealanders travel each year to Turkey for war memorial services Just over a century ago, thousands of soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) struggled ashore on a narrow beach at Gallipoli during an ill-fated campaign that would claim more than 130,000 lives.
The area has become a site of pilgrimage for visitors who honour their nations’ fallen in graveyards halfway around the world on ANZAC Day every April 25.