SYDNEY – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison summoned Turkish ambassador Korhan Karakoc on Wednesday and warned of possible actions in response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s offensive remarks following the New Zealand mosque massacre.
Following the mass shooting in Christchurch that killed 50 people, and wounded another 50, including several Turks, Erdogan had said that anyone visiting Turkey with an anti-Muslim attitude will be returned to their country in coffins like their grandparents, referring to Australian and New Zealand troops, who were killed on the Turkish peninsula of Gallipoli during World War I.
During his speech, Erdogan also showed images of the video recorded by the shooter of the two mosques in Christchurch and said that if New Zealand does not punish the perpetrator of Australian nationality, Turkey will do so.
“I find it a very offensive comment, of course,” Morrison said to ABC news, adding that he would be speaking directly with Karakoc to clarify the comments.
“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,” he said.
“We could not have been more forward leading in offering our great condolences and support to the Muslim community both in New Zealand and in Australia,” added Morrison.
Karakoc had attributed the comments to a heated moment during the election campaign in the run up to the polls.
However, Morrison refused to be pacified and demanded a public clarification and threatened to revise the travel alert to Turkey.
“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,” said Morrison.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, however, did not comment on Erdogan’s statements and said that the New Zealand Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, will be traveling to Turkey to clarify matters.
“(Peters) is setting the record straight, face to face. We have to make sure what is portrayed is an accurate reflection of New Zealand... of our Muslim community and that is his intent,” Ardern said to the media.
Ardern, who visited Christchurch for the second time after the massacre, said that a delegation of the Turkish government was in New Zealand to express solidarity with New Zealand and those affected by the massacre.
When asked if she was as offended as Morrison, Ardern underlined strong bilateral ties with Turkey and pointed out that thousands of New Zealanders travel to the country every year to mark the landing of Gallipoli.
“I do not accept we will see the long-term change in our relationship – it is so deeply entrenched,” she said.