Australia ‘not to blame’ for terror amid fears over Turkish response


“I want that message to get out to Australians, many of whom have said to me they feel guilty. I’ve said: ‘Don’t feel guilty.’ What we need to do is work together to ensure this terrible terrorism does not happen.”

‘Don’t feel guilty.’ What we need to do is work together to ensure this terrible terrorism does not happen.

Dame Annette King, NZ High Commissioner to Australia

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The comments came as leaders from both countries sought to soothe relations with Turkey after its president, Reycep Erdogan, retreated from incendiary remarks suggesting that Australians and New Zealanders might return “in coffins” from his country because of the attack.

Mr Erdogan’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, said the president’s remarks were “taken out of context” and were aimed at those who threatened Turkey, given the terrorist’s manifesto targeted the Turkish state.

“He was responding to the so-called ‘manifesto’ of the terrorist who killed 50 innocent Muslims,” Mr Altun said.

“Turks have always been the most welcoming and gracious hosts to their Anzac visitors.”

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has inflamed anti-Anzac sentiments as he campaigns in local elections.Credit:AP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison criticised the “highly offensive” and “highly reckless” remarks from Mr Erdogan while Opposition Leader Bill Shorten called them “foolish” and “offensive”.

The Australian ambassador to Turkey, Marc Innes-Brown, spoke to Mr Erdogan’s aides in Ankara early on Thursday morning, AEST, and also gained assurances that the comments were taken out of context.

The message from the Turkish presidential office was that Turkey would always welcome Australian and New Zealand travellers visiting the country for Anzac Day.

That message, along with intelligence from Five Eyes security partners and Australian authorities, will influence whether the Department of Foreign Affairs changes its travel advice for the country, which currently recommends that travellers exercise a “high degree of caution”.

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Australian officials are hoping to avoid an escalation in tension that would force an increase in the travel warning to the next level, telling travellers to “reconsider” their plans.

A key event in shaping the Australian travel advice will be Mr Erdogan’s appearance at a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation in Turkey on Friday, giving him a platform where he may comment again on the terror attack.

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters will attend the Islamic summit.

David Crowe is Chief Political Correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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