THE Department of Foreign Affairs is holding talks with Turkey as a controversial World War I monument in Sydney threatens a Gallipoli surveying project.
Turkey’s ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, Oguz Ozge, said the monument, which commemorates the deaths of 750,000 Assyrians, was worrying the Turkish government.
”As long as remedial action is not taken we intend to do something on the part of the Turkish government,” he told reporters.
The monument, erected by Assyrian leaders, refers to the alleged killing of the Assyrians by Ottoman troops as ”genocide”.
The Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, was photographed at its unveiling at Bonnyrigg, in south-west Sydney, in August.
One of the monument’s key opponents, Adem Cetinay, told the Herald he supported the Turkish government taking a stand by withholding visas.
”As a Turkish Australian I congratulate the Turkish government for taking a positive step towards making their feelings [known] â€¦ Sometimes people get the wrong idea, and they think these accusations [of genocide] are true. But they’re absolutely false. A small group of people here in western Sydney are making a lot of noise. I think it’s unfair.”
A spokeswoman for the Foreign Affairs Minister, Kevin Rudd, said the department was holding talks with Turkey over delays in visas for Australian archaeologists visiting Turkey.
Archaeologists from Turkey, New Zealand and Australia are next week due to begin mapping the Gallipoli peninsula.
A decision to suspend the Gallipoli survey had not yet been taken, but Mr Ozge said this ”could be, until we find a way out”.
”We hope to see the Australian government do something about [the monument].”
The surveying exercise is aimed at providing an archaeological map of the battlefields where 11,500 Australian and New Zealand troops died trying to wrest the Dardanelles Strait from the Ottoman Empire.