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Erdoğan Comments Cause Diplomatic Tensions

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Article and Package by Stefan Bradley

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s controversial Gallipoli comments made in response to the Christchurch terrorist attacks have led to an angry reaction in both Australia and New Zealand.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has rejected the Turkish ambassador’s explanation of the comments, which were said to be in the heat of the moment in context of Turkey’s local election campaign.

Mr Morrison wants an apology for these remarks, while New Zealand’s foreign minister Winston Peters has been sent to Turkey to meet Mr Erdogan directly.

Mr Erdogan made the comments at a campaign event, in which he cited anti-Islam sentiment for the attack, and showed footage of the Christchurch massacre. He said that any Australians who came to Turkey with anti-Islamic sentiments would be sent back in coffins “like their grandfathers were”, which is a reference to the 1915 Gallipoli Campaign.

Turkey has since responded with an alternative translation of the comments, in which a senior spokesperson for the Turkish President says they were taken out of context and that the country welcomes its ANZAC visitors. Mr Morrison expressed the need for constructive talks on the issue.

Dr Mehmet Ozalp, who is the founding director of the Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation at Charles Sturt University, said Mr Erdogan’s comments were a political tactic in response to the local elections in Turkey.

“It is definitely an election campaign tactic. There is local government elections in Turkey on 30th March, and polls are showing that Erdogan and his party may lose some of the big cities.”

Dr Ozalp compared the magnitude of these potential losses to “losing an entire state in Australia”.

Dr Ozalp said that President Erdogan’s party have been in a political alliance with a nationalist party for a number of years, which explains why his rhetoric has been more nationalistic, with these comments an example of him “playing to the crowd”.

As far as security risks in Gallipoli, Dr Ozalp said that while he believed President Erdogan would not want to create safety fears for Australians in Turkey, he expressed concern for ultra-nationalists inspired by the Turkish leader’s rhetoric.

Dr Binoy Kampmark, who is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University, said that the translation of the comments provided by Erdogan’s aids were “not particularly that shocking”.

Dr Kampmark said that Turkey, as a majority Muslim country, it would make sense following an incident such as this that a message would be sent that if a non-Muslim came to Turkey with ill-intent, they would be “accordingly dealt with”.

On how Australia should respond to firebrand leaders such as Mr Erdogan in future cases like this, Dr Kampmark said Australia should remain calm.

“There’s always going to be the demagogues face…there will still be agreements, there will still be security arrangements.”

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