News National Turkish leader’s backdown welcome, but fears remain

Turkish leader’s backdown welcome, but fears remain

turkey travel caskets
The official travel advice for Australians heading to Turkey remains under review. Photo: AAP
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Australia has welcomed the Turkish President’s backdown on “offensive” threats that Australians will “pay for it” after the New Zealand mosque massacre.

But fears remain that the comments might inspire terrorists to target tourists during Anzac ceremonies, and the official travel advice for Turkey remains under review.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed overnight on Wednesday that he had been “unfortunately taken out of context” in a speech where he raged against the New Zealand mosque massacres and invoked the Anzac battle.

“Your grandparents came here … and they returned in caskets,” he said.

“Have no doubt we will send you back like your grandfathers.”

turkey gallipoli caskets
President Erdogan speaks at an election rally. Photo: Getty

But overnight, Mr Erdogan’s spokesman released a new “translation” of the President’s speech that dropped the coffin remarks that were caught on camera.

Mr Erdogan also wrote an editorial for The Washington Post that omitted the aggressive language of his political rallies.

The backdown followed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s insistence that Turkey should retract the remarks. On Wednesday, Mr Morrison called in the Turkish ambassador for a dressing down at Parliament House.

“Overnight, progress has been made on this issue and overnight we’ve already seen a moderation of the President’s views, expressed in an article in The Washington Post today and I welcome that moderation,” he said.

“As I said yesterday, it’s my intention here to break any cycle of recklessness and work through the issues practically, to register in the strongest and clearest of terms the offence that was taken, I believe rightly, by those comments yesterday. But now to work constructively.”

“I think it was very important yesterday that Australia registered our views very, very clearly and unambiguously.”

Mr Erdogan – who faces a tight contest for re-election – has repeatedly played horrific footage from the Christchurch shooter’s attacks at mass rallies in recent days.

On Thursday, Mr Morrison was cautious about whether Australians travelling to Gallipoli for Anzac Day could expect to be safe.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is still reviewing the travel advice and when they conclude that process, we’ll make our announcement,” he said.

“I’ve welcomed some of the more positive statements about the safety of Australians travelling from the Turkish government overnight.

“Let’s wait for the official travel advice … The prudent thing to do is go through the proper process and make the assessment.”

Mr Erdogan’s spokesman, Fahrettin Altun, said on Thursday that the President’s words had been taken out of context.

“He was responding to the so-called ‘manifesto’ of the terrorist who killed 50 innocent Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand. Turks have always been the most welcoming & gracious hosts to their Anzac visitors,” he tweeted.