Scott Morrison has rejected ‘excuses’ from the Turkish President for what he called ’reckless’ and ‘vile’ comments. Picture: Kym Smith
Scott Morrison has rejected ‘excuses’ from the Turkish President for what he called ’reckless’ and ‘vile’ comments. Picture: Kym Smith

Warnings over Anzac Day travel to Turkey

AUSTRALIANS are being warned to exercise caution travelling to Turkey for Anzac Day after the Prime Minister slammed the Turkish President for "reckless" comments when he threatened to send visitors home in coffins.

National security agencies are urgently reviewing travel advice for Australians planning to head to Gallipoli for Anzac Day services.

Current travel advice warns to "exercise a high degree of caution" overall in Turkey. Higher levels apply in some parts of the country.

Travel advice for Turkey. Picture: Smart Traveller
Travel advice for Turkey. Picture: Smart Traveller

Mr Morrison said he was wary of heightening tensions a month out from Anzac Day, with hundreds of Australians set to flock to the country for memorial ceremonies.

The warning comes as Mr Morrison said he did not accept the excuse given by the Turkish government after its president said Australians with anti-Muslim views would be sent home in coffins like their grandfathers.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan was referencing the WWI battle at Gallipoli, in which thousands of Australian and New Zealand soldiers died fighting the Turks, as he responded to the Christchurch mosque massacres.

Mr Morrison said he did not accept the president's comments reflected the feeling of the people of Turkey and "all options were on the table" in terms of Australia's response.

"Remarks have been made by the Turkish President Erdogan that I consider highly offensive to Australians and highly reckless in this very sensitive environment," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra today.

"They are offensive because they insult the memory of our Anzacs and they violate the pledge that is etched in the stone at Gallipoli of the promise of Ataturk to the mothers of other Anzacs."

Mr Morrison today met with the Turkish ambassador Korhan Karakoc at Parliament House.

"I do not accept the excuses that have been offered for those comments," he said.

The Turkish President told an election rally: "Your grandparents came, some of them returned in coffins.

"What business did you have here? We had no issues with you, why did you come all the way over here? The only reason: we're Muslim, and they're Christian.

"Your grandparents came here … and they returned in caskets. Have no doubt we will send you back like your grandfathers."

The Prime Minister called the Turkish President’s comments reckless and vile. Picture Kym Smith
The Prime Minister called the Turkish President’s comments reckless and vile. Picture Kym Smith

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday after he allegedly opened fire at two Christchurch mosques during Friday prayers. Fifty people have died as a result of the attack, with dozens more still in hospital suffering serious injuries.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Australians and New Zealanders would soon travel to Gallipoli to mark Anzac Day and 100 years of friendship with Turkey.

"These are foolish and offensive remarks at a time when New Zealanders are mourning," Mr Shorten said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern rejected suggestions the president's comments would change the long term relationship between NZ and Turkey.

"I do not accept that we will see the long-term change in our relationship. It is so deeply entrenched. They cared for our fallen," she said of Turkey.

Our Deputy Prime Minister is travelling (there) and, as he has said, he is setting the record straight, face-to-face."

Mr Morrison said it was the job of tolerant societies like Australia's not to escalate the war of words.

Yesterday he called for leaders to cool the racially charged rhetoric.

"I find the responsibility in these situations, of all leaders, is to take the temperature down, and I don't seek to escalate that in the response I'm giving to today."

Armenian National Committee of Australia executive director Haig Kayserian said the Turkish president's comments were outrageous.

"What Erdogan is doing is responding to a hate crime by spreading more hate," he said.

"He is disrespecting Anzacs by referring to their return to Australia and New Zealand in coffins, while at the same time threatening those of our citizens who wish to pay respects to the memory of our Anzacs in Gallipoli."

President Erdogan also called on New Zealand to restore the death penalty for the gunman, warning Turkey would make the attacker pay if they did not.

"We had a frank exchange with the Prime Minister, and the Gallipoli spirit will always remain," the ambassador said on his way out of Parliament House.

Mr Morrison said Australia was reviewing its travel advisory to Turkey.


- with AAP