Concerns for the safety of Australians planning to travel to Gallipoli for Anzac Day are growing after controversial comments made by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the aftermath of the Christchurch massacre, Australia’s 9news website reported on Thursday.
7 News Sydney also tweeted that the Dawn Service at Gallipoli is “under the threat of cancellation” in the wake of Erdoğan’s remarks.
Erdoğan played footage of the Christchurch massacre at a political rally before saying Australians with anti-Muslim views would be sent home in coffins like their grandfathers.
He was referencing the World War I battle at Gallipoli, in which thousands of Australian and New Zealand soldiers died fighting the Turks.
“Your grandparents came, some of them returned in coffins,” Erdoğan said.
“If you come as well like your grandfathers, be sure that you will go like your grandfathers.”
The comments came after Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, 28, was charged with murder on Saturday after a lone gunman opened fire at two Christchurch mosques during Friday prayers, killing 50 people.
Australia’s security agencies are now looking into Turkey’s leader’s comments, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday confirmed “all options are now on the table” for a diplomatic move against Turkey.
The comments come at a worrying time for thousands of Australians who will next month travel to Turkey for the annual Anzac Day commemoration ceremony at Gallipoli.
It is understood senior government figures have also voiced concerns about possible retaliation attacks against Australians that could occur following Erdoğan’s comments.
Despite that, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s travel advice for Australians remains the same: “Exercise a high degree of caution.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is weighing up how best to respond to the provocative comments, after rejecting excuses offered by the country’s ambassador to Australia.
Morrison has called the remarks “highly offensive to Australians” and “highly reckless in this very sensitive environment.”
Opposition leader Bill Shorten backed Morrison’s stance on Erdoğan’s “foolish” remarks.
The prime minister summoned Turkish Ambassador Korhan Karakoç to Parliament House yesterday to explain the remarks and tell him the president should withdraw them.
He says he was given excuses.
“The excuses I don’t accept are things are said in the heat of the moment. The excuses that I don’t accept are that things are said in an electoral context,” Morrison said after the meeting.
Morrison has confirmed all options for responding to Turkey are on the table.
Diplomatic options available include asking for a formal apology or kicking out the ambassador.
Officials are also reviewing travel advice for Turkey, where thousands of Australians would be planning to go next month for Anzac Day services.
Australia’s travel advice for Turkey is already set at “exercise a high degree of caution” due to the high threat of terrorism. Tour companies Fanatics and Intrepid, who take Australians to Gallipoli for Anzac Day, say their plans have not been rattled by the issue.