Anzac Day Travellers Urged To Be Cautious
Australians planning to travel to Turkey for Anzac Day are being urged to exercise caution and await further advice, following incendiary comments by the country's president.
Australia's travel advice to Turkey is under review after its president said Australians with anti-Muslim views would be sent home in coffins like their grandfathers.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison does not accept the excuses offered by Turkey for the inflammatory remarks.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was referencing the WWI battle at Gallipoli, in which thousands of Australian and New Zealand soldiers died fighting the Turks, as he responded to the Christchurch mosque massacres.
Mr Morrison refused to accept the president's comments reflected the views of the people of Turkey and declared "all options were on the table" in Australia's response.
One immediate option could be to expel the ambassador.
"Remarks have been made by the Turkish President Erdogan that I consider highly offensive to Australians, and highly reckless in this very sensitive environment," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
"They are offensive because they insult the memory of our Anzacs and they violate the pledge that is etched in the stone at Gallipoli, of the promise of Ataturk to the mothers of other Anzacs."
Mr Morrison summoned the Turkish ambassador Korhan Karakoc to Parliament House to explain the remarks.
"I do not accept the excuses that have been offered for those comments," he said, adding that comments being made "in the heat of the moment" or in an "electoral contest" were no justification.
Several more high-level meetings are planned in the coming days.
"We had a frank exchange with the prime minister and the Gallipoli spirit will always remain," the ambassador said on his way out of Parliament House.
Australia's travel advice for Turkey is already set at "exercise a high degree of caution", due to the high threat of terrorism.
The Turkish president played footage of the Christchurch mosque massacre at an election rally before telling Australians: "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."
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday after a lone gunman opened fire at two Christchurch mosques during Friday prayers, killing 50 people.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Australians and New Zealanders would soon travel to Gallipoli to mark Anzac Day and 100 years of friendship with Turkey.
"These are foolish and offensive remarks at a time when New Zealanders are mourning," Mr Shorten said.
Despite Turkey's explosive response, Mr Morrison said it was the job of tolerant societies like Australia not to escalate the war of words.
Armenian National Committee of Australia executive director Haig Kayserian said the Turkish president's comments were outrageous.
"What Erdogan is doing is responding to a hate crime by spreading more hate," he said.
President Erdogan also called on New Zealand to restore the death penalty for the gunman, warning Turkey would make the attacker pay if they did not.
WHAT IS GOING ON BETWEEN AUSTRALIA AND TURKEY?
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told an election rally held on the Gallipoli Peninsula that Australia and New Zealand had sent troops to the area in the First World War with anti-Muslim motives.
"Your grandparents came, some of them returned in coffins," the president said. "If you come as well like your grandfathers, be sure that you will be gone like your grandfathers."
He also called on New Zealand to restore the death penalty for the Australian accused of attacking Christchurch mosques, warned that Turkey would make the perpetrator pay if New Zealand did not, and said the attack was evidence of a global anti-Muslim sentiment. Mr Erdogan has also reportedly been playing clips of the live-streamed video of the mosque attack at political rallies since it occurred on Friday.
Turkey will hold local elections on March 31.
HOW HAS AUSTRALIA RESPONDED?
Prime Minister Scott Morrison hauled Turkish ambassador Korhan Karakoc in for a dressing down on Wednesday over the comments he decried as "highly offensive to Australians and highly reckless in this very sensitive environment".
He also said it went against the promise of Turkey's first president Mustafa Kemal Ataturk - etched in stone at Gallipoli - that soldiers who died there were in the soil of a friendly country. Mr Morrison said he did not accept the excuses offered that Mr Erdogan had made the remarks in the heat of the moment in an election context, and Australia was still considering its options.
He wants Mr Erdogan to clarify and withdraw his comments and for reporting on Turkish state-owned television that misrepresents Australia's position to be taken down.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said they were "foolish and offensive remarks" to make at a time when New Zealanders were mourning.
WHAT DID THE AMBASSADOR SAY?
Mr Karakoc told reporters on his way out of Parliament House: "We had a frank exchange with the prime minister and the Gallipoli spirit will always remain."
WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS?
Officials are reviewing travel advice for Turkey, where thousands of Australians would be planning to go next month for Anzac Day services. Other diplomatic options available would include asking for a formal apology or kicking out the ambassador.