Fri, Mar 22, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Canberra, Ankara ‘make progress’

The Guardian

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared his country is “making progress” toward repairing its relationship with Ankara after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoan created a diplomatic row by invoking ANZAC deaths at Gallipoli in World War I.

At an election rally, Erdoan showed footage from the terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, and said that anyone who came to Turkey with anti-Islamic sentiments would be sent back in coffins “like their grandfathers were” during the failed 1915 allied campaign.

Morrison responded by saying Australia was reviewing its travel advisory for Turkey ahead of ANZAC Day commemorations at the Gallipoli Peninsula, an event which raises millions of dollars for Turkish tourism operators and the economy each year, saying “all options are on the table.”

A day later, following diplomatic intervention, Morrison appeared mollified by a statement from the Turkish president’s adviser saying that Erdoan’s words had been “taken out of context,” despite his statements having been filmed and Morrison rejecting the same explanation from the Turkish ambassador.

“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 in those views,” Morrison said yesterday.

“There has been further meetings held between our officials and the Turkish government, and that’s the appropriate place for those to be held,” he said. “There’s a meeting that takes place in the next few days, and the New Zealand foreign minister [Winston Peters] will be there and our ambassador will attend that meeting, and there’ll be opportunities for further discussion.”

Morrison did not back down from his initial reaction, but moderated his own comments in response.

“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 offense that was taken,” he said. “I stand, I believe rightly, by those comments yesterday, but now [we need] to work constructively.”

Morrison said he had also spoken to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern overnight about Peters’ upcoming meeting with Erdoan, as well as the joint effort to make social media companies more accountable for what appears on their platforms, after the Christchurch attack was livestreamed.

Morrison said that the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was still reviewing Canberra’s travel advice for Turkey ahead of ANZAC Day on April 25.

“I’ve welcomed some of the more positive statements about the safety of Australians traveling from the Turkish government overnight,” he said.

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