New Zealand FM to ‘confront’ Erdogan over remarks on mosque attack

Christchurch: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday said that Foreign Minister Winston Peters will travel to Turkey to “confront” the comments made by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over twin mosque shootings in Christchurch that killed 50 people.

During a campaign for local elections, scheduled to be held on March 31, Erdogan on Tuesday warned that anybody who visited Turkey with anti-muslim sentiments would be “sent back in coffins,” like their grandfathers were, at Gallipoli, during World War 1, Al Jazeera reported.

Dubbing the mosque attacks as an assault on Turkey as well as Islam, Erdogan noted that Turkey would make the suspected attacker pay if New Zealand fails to do so.

The strong remarks by the Turkish President apparently referred to the lone shooter of Christchurch attacks, 28-year-old Australian-born Brenton Tarrant, who in a video posted on social media said that the attacks was aimed at all Muslim “invaders”.

In the wake of Erdogan’s remarks, Ardern said Foreign Minister Winston Peters would seek urgent clarification over the remarks during his visit.

“Our deputy prime minister will be confronting those comments in Turkey,” Ardern addressed the media, while adding, “He is going there to set the record straight, face-to-face.”

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday condemned Erdogan’s remarks as “reckless” and “highly offensive in this very sensitive environment.”

After summoned the Turkish ambassador (to Australia) on the same day, Morrison stated that he does not “accept the excuses that have been offered” for the comments, that they were said “in the heat of the moment … in an electoral context”.

“I am expecting, and I have asked, for these comments to be clarified, to be withdrawn … I expect that to occur,” Morrison said.

Furthermore, Morrison added that Australia will review its travel advisory for Turkey, a threat that could see Australians directed not to travel to Turkey for Anzac Day commemorations at Gallipoli, attended by thousands every year on April 25, the local media reported.

The accused, Tarrant, live-streamed his gruesome act on Facebook for 17 minutes and police believe that the accused had single-handedly carried out the terror attack at both the mosques under a span of 36 minutes during the Friday prayers for which a large number of worshippers had congregated.

Tarrant, who appeared before the court on murder charges, was remanded in custody without plea until April 5.