Turkey threatens to delay Gallipoli survey in statue row

TURKEY may delay a survey of its Gallipoli battlefields with New Zealand and Australia in protest at a World War I monument built in Australia, the Turkish ambassador said Wednesday.
Oguz Ozge, Turkey’s ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, told Radio New Zealand that the monument in Sydney, which commemorates the deaths of around 750,000 Assyrians, was “quite unacceptable.”
The monument, erected by Assyrian community leaders, refers to the alleged killing of the Assyrians by Ottoman troops as “genocide”. Government minister Chris Bowen was photographed at its unveiling last month.
“This is quite concerning to the Turkish government, and as long as remedial action is not taken we intend to do something on the part of the Turkish government,” Mr Ozge said.
Archaeologists from Turkey, New Zealand and Australia are next week due to begin mapping the Gallipoli peninsula, the scene of a bloody World War I offensive seen as a key moment in Australian and New Zealand history.
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A final decision to suspend the Gallipoli survey had not yet been taken, but Mr Ozge said it “could be, until we find a way out”.
“We hope to see the Australian government do something about (the monument)” he said.
“We are in touch with the Australian authorities … It is our intention to find a way out which would be satisfactory to us all,” he added.
Ian McGibbon, New Zealand’s representative in the Gallipoli survey, said the row had cast next week’s trip to Turkey into doubt, adding that the project had been several years in the making.
“I suspect it may eventually be next year now,” Mr McGibbon told NZPA.
“I guess we just wait until the issue is resolved.”
Mr McGibbon said the exercise aimed to provide a detailed archaeological map of the battlefields, where 11,500 Australian and New Zealand troops died in an offensive aimed at wresting the Dardanelles Strait from the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey.
Turkey’s foreign minister had earlier condemned the monument in Sydney’s south-west, blaming people who “want to poison the perfect relations between Australia and Turkey and intend to rewrite history for political gain”.
Vandals have attacked the monument, spray-painting it with the words, “Assyrian dogs”, and the Turkish flag.

Turkey threatens to delay Gallipoli survey