Comments by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of the massacre of Muslims in New Zealand were taken "out of context," a senior official of the Turkish presidency says, after Australia and New Zealand voiced anger over the remarks.
Turkish President Erdogan's words were "taken out of context" while responding to the manifesto of an Australian terrorist who killed at least 50 worshippers in twin mosque attacks in New Zealand, a senior official of the Turkish presidency said on Wednesday.
"He [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] was responding to the so-called 'manifesto' of the terrorist who killed 50 innocent Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand," Fahrettin Altun, Communications Director of the Turkish Presidency, clarified in a tweet.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a white supremacist and right-wing terrorist, was charged with murder on Saturday after he opened fire at the two mosques in New Zealand's Christchurch city during Friday prayers last week.
Before the attacks he released a manifesto that targeted President Erdogan and also contained references to Turkey and Hagia Sophia museum.
Remarks made 'in a historical context'
Erdogan, in his speech to mark 104 years since the Canakkale victory, had said "those attacking us are still testing the patience and resolve of Turkey despite a century gone by," angering New Zealand and Australia.
In that speech, the text of which was released by the senior Turkish presidency official, Erdogan said, "Your ancestors came and saw us here. Then some left on their feet, some in coffins. If you come here with the same intentions [to invade our land], we will be waiting and have no doubt we will see you off like your ancestors."
Altun said, "The terrorist's manifesto not only targeted Erdogan himself but also the Turkish people and the Turkish state."
However, Altun said, Erdogan's words were "unfortunately taken out of context."
"As he [Erdogan] was giving the speech at the Canakkale (Gallipoli) commemoration, he framed his remarks in a historical context of attacks against Turkey, past and present."
Gallipoli was the scene of a blood-drenched WWI battle in which Turkish soldiers defeated allied forces.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison later said on Thursday that tensions between his country and Turkey had eased after clarification made on President Erdogan's comments that were taken out of context.
"Australia and Turkey, the peoples of both countries, have a tremendous relationship, built up over generations," Morrison said.
Relations between Turkey, New Zealand and Australia have generally been good. Thousands of Australians and New Zealanders travel each year to Turkey for war memorial services.
Just over a century ago, thousands of soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) fought alongside the British and its allies against Turkish forces.
The fighting took place ashore on a narrow beach at Gallipoli in northwestern Turkey that claimed more than 130,000 lives, and ended with the victory of Turkish soldiers.
The area has become a site of pilgrimage for visitors who honour their nations' fallen in graveyards halfway around the world on ANZAC Day every April 25.
Victory against the Allied forces boosted the morale of the Turkish side, who then went on to wage a war of independence between 1919 and 1922, and eventually formed a republic in 1923 from the ashes of the old Ottoman Empire.
"Turks have always been the most welcoming & gracious hosts to their #Anzac visitors," Fahrettin Altun said.