March 22, 2019 / 6:28 AM / 4 months ago

New Zealand minister lands in Turkey, wants 'substantial' talks over Christchurch

People gather to support a remembrance for the victims of last week's mosque shooting, at the police cordon for the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 22, 2019. REUTERS/SNPA/David Alexander

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - New Zealand’s foreign minister arrived in Turkey early Friday for what he called “substantial” talks after comments made by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan over the killing of 50 people at mosques in Christchurch a week ago sparked a diplomatic spat between the nations.

“We are looking forward to commemorating and grieving with the Turkish people as to the event, and to some substantial talks when we are here,” Winston Peters told reporters at the airport in Istanbul.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with one murder following the attack in Christchurch, New Zealand and is likely to face more charges.

Erdogan, who is seeking to drum up support for his Islamist-rooted AK Party in March 31 local elections, said on Tuesday that Turkey would make the suspected attacker pay if New Zealand did not.

The comments came at a campaign rally that included video footage of the shootings that the alleged gunman had broadcast on Facebook. The footage has been shown at several of his rallies across Turkey since the attack, including on Thursday, drawing condemnation from New Zealand and Australia.

Peters and Erdogan are to attend an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Friday in Istanbul over the shootings in Christchurch and Islamophobia. The OIC groups together Muslim countries to protect the interest of the Muslim world.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said Peters was headed to Turkey to “confront” comments made by Erdogan on the killings, and she repeated on Friday he was there to “set the record straight.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this week called the comments “deeply offensive” and summoned Turkey’s ambassador for a meeting, though on Thursday he said progress had been made and “we’ve already seen the moderation of the president’s (Erdogan’s) views.”

Reporting by Bulent Usta and Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer

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