New Zealand’s foreign minister Winston Peters will travel to Turkey urgently for a face-to-face with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the latter’s comments on the recent Christchurch terror attack which left 50 people dead.
Revealing this on Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinta Arden said in an unusually terse statement that Peters will “confront” Erdogan over his actions since the attacks, which have driven a wedge between the two generally friendly countries.
The statement reads in part:
Our deputy prime minister will be confronting those comments in Turkey. He is going there to set the record straight, face-to-face.
It will be recalled that Erdogan, who is gunning to retain his office in the March 31 elections under the banner of the Islamic populist AK party, has repeatedly referenced the white supremacist attack as a direct assault on Turkey, and has used segments of the shooter’s live-streamed video to make his point during campaign appearances. Fanning the populist fear of anti-Muslim Christian crusader violence within the country, Erdogan recently declared that “they” will not succeed in “turning Istanbul into Constantinople.”
Erdoğan exploits everything possible. He shows New Zealand attack footage on giant screens on rally children attended and claims a message is being sent to him from 16000km away. Erdogan's cliche tactic of creating enemy and playing on patriotism. It works all the time! pic.twitter.com/mdUgFgxkUE
— Barbarossa (@BarbarossaKaya) March 19, 2019
Using Tragedy for Political Gain
Erdogan’s spokesperson Fahrettin Altun has predictably denied that the Turkish president is cynically exploiting the fear of Christian violence in a country that was once the grinding face of Christian Europe’s violent struggle for supremacy with Muslim Asia. According to him, Erdogan’s comments, which were timed to coincide with the 104th anniversary of the 1915 Gallipoli campaign were deliberately quoted out of context,” though he did not specify what the missing context was.
In his words:
Turks have always been the most welcoming & gracious hosts to their Anzac visitors. As he was giving the speech at the Canakkale (Gallipoli) commemoration, he framed his remarks in a historical context of attacks against Turkey, past and present.
Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, says those who attack Turkey will be sent back 'in caskets' after criticism from New Zealand for screening footage of the fatal attack in Christchurch https://t.co/GkMBcC0d8Q pic.twitter.com/Qave66RMLY
— Financial Times (@FinancialTimes) March 19, 2019
Erdogan is accomplished in the art of using religious and ethnic dog whistling as a political tool, and it will not be lost on discerning observers that his choice of remarks during the commemoration of the Gallipoli campaign is a thoroughly unsubtle dig at the western world which suffered one of the First World War’s biggest reverses, losing tens of thousands of soldiers in the ill-fated attempt to take over Turkey.
In a series of appearances since the attack, Erdogan has repeatedly hinted that it was somehow directed at Turkey and him personally. Speaking to largely conservative Musli audiences, he has threatened to take retaliatory action if New Zealand is not willing to do so. Despite a global effort to stop the attack video from proliferating and spreading, Erdogan continues to use the horrifying footage as an admittedly effective campaign tool. Excerpts from the terrorist’s manifesto are also regularly quoted and broadcast as Erdogan portrays himself as the protector of Muslim Turkey against murderous Christian crusaders.
Australia’s Furious Response
Australia meanwhile, has responded with more than just a stiff statement. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has already summoned the Turkish ambassador to demand that the footage and accompanying comments be removed immediately from the Turkish state broadcaster, barring which “all options are on the table” for further action against Turkey. Without giving too much away, Morrison hinted that Australia’s response might include a significant diplomatic dispute between both countries.
According to Morrison, depending on the outcome of a Wednesday meeting between Erdogan’s government and the Australian ambassador to Turkey, Australia may even issue a travel advisory against Turkey. This would be of great significance because of historical ties between both countries. Every year, thousands of tourists from Australia and New Zealand visit turkey to pay their respects to fallen ANZAC World War 1 heroes who died during the failed Gallipoli campaign against the Ottoman Empire.