Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's comments taken out of context - journalist

The Turkish President's threats that New Zealanders will be sent home in coffins if they travel to Turkey with bad intentions has been quoted out of context, a local journalist says.

Tayyip Erdogan has been playing footage of the Christchurch attacks, filmed by the alleged gunman, at campaign rallies.

"Your grandparents came, [and] some of them returned in coffins," he said earlier this week, referencing the failed invasion at Gallipoli of World War I, during which thousands of Kiwis and Australians lost their lives.

"If you come as well, like your grandfathers, be sure that you will be gone like your grandfathers," he said to a crowd of hundreds."

Next month marks the 104th anniversary of the initial landings at Gallipoli. Each year, Kiwis and Australians visit Anzac Cove in Turkey to mark the occasion.

But Australia has issued a travel advisory to the region this year, in response to Erdogan's comments, and New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters has vowed to set the record straight with the Turks, that New Zealand is "an innocent party to an act of a foreigner". The alleged gunman is Australian.

Hasan Abdullah, political correspondent for Turkish state broadcaster TRT World, told The AM Show on Thursday Erdogan's comments have been quoted entirely out of context.

"He referred to the manifesto that has been attributed to [the alleged gunman] in which he threatened Turkey and particularly Istanbul, saying that Istanbul would be converted back to Constantinople.

"Now in this context, the Turkish President said anyone who tries to attack Turkey would be sent back in coffins, like the forefathers. Now we know in the Battle of Gallipoli the Brits, the French, the Australians and the New Zealanders had faced the Ottoman soldiers, so this was the context - so it has been taken out of context."

Constantinople officially became Istanbul in the 1920s, after nearly two millennia under its Roman name. Before that it was Byzantium, a Greek colony.

Abdullah said the media here in New Zealand "may feel the tendency and the desire to spice up things because after all, it's the spicy news that they may think sells".

"I'm just quite astonished that something like this could blow out of proportion. This is what makes me think that perhaps - just a theory - perhaps there's some sort of concerted effort from some quarters to divert attention from the real issue at hand, because the response from the Government of New Zealand and the people of New Zealand has been amazing."

Abdullah pointed to an opinion piece Erdogan penned for The Washington Post, in which the President praised Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's handling of the tragedy and explained why the killer's actions and manifesto have struck a chord in Turkey.

"In the wake of the New Zealand attack, Turkish authorities discovered... the alleged gunman, had visited Turkey twice in 2016 and spent time in various parts of the country."

Tayyip Erdogan.
Tayyip Erdogan. Photo credit: Getty

Erdogan said he didn't blame Christianity for the killings, just as no one should blame Islam for the atrocities of Islamic State.

"As a leader who has repeatedly stressed that terrorism has no religion, language or race, I categorically reject any attempt to associate last week's terrorist attacks with the teachings, morals or maxims of Christianity. If anything, what happened in New Zealand was the toxic product of ignorance and hate."

Hasan Abdullah.
Hasan Abdullah. Photo credit: The AM Show

Abdullah said Kiwis travelling to Turkey next month for Anzac events shouldn't feel in any danger.

"Very safe... relations between Turkey and New Zealand are very good."

Abdullah's employer TRT World has been accused of having a pro-government bias. Turkey itself is classified a 'hybrid regime' in the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index 2018 - a mix of democracy and authoritarianism, where elections are flawed and the media pressured to favour the government.

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