By Nazli Yuzbasioglu and Sibel Ugurlu
“Courage, sacrifice, duty and respect” are the common values shared by New Zealand and Turkey at Gallipoli," New Zealand’s ambassador to Turkey told Anadolu Agency on Friday.
Speaking in an exclusive interview in the Turkish capital, Jonathan Curr said Anzac Day “remains for us significant” ahead of the official commemoration on April 25.
April 25 is known as Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand -- a significant national holiday that honors the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACS) who fought and died in Canakkale on Turkey's western coast in 1915. Australia and New Zealand commemorate the event as Gallipoli.
This year marks the 102nd anniversary of the conflict in the Dardanelles Strait, which became a turning point for Turks fighting against the invading Allies during WWI.
Tens of thousands of Turkish nationals and soldiers died in the eight-month campaign, along with tens of thousands of Europeans, plus between 7,000 - 8,000 Australians and nearly 3,000 New Zealanders.
Curr said Anzac Day was not only a commemoration of what happened at Gallipoli, “it is also the day on which we can commemorate all war sacrifices and war losses, whichever campaign or war New Zealand has been involved over the last century.”
Curr described Gallipoli War was significant not only in terms of Turkey’s national identity, but also as a foundational point for New Zealand’s national identity.
“Turkey was one of those places where Mustafa Kemal Ataturk made such a big impact and he became the founder of the modern Turkish Republic and that’s very significant in term of Turkey’s national identity.
“In New Zealand, it became an awakening of our national identity, the realization that New Zealand is very different from the other allied forces that were on the battlefield with us.”
Curr described the ties between New Zealand and Turkey as “excellent” and “in a very good shape”.
The two countries will find the opportunity to talk about “how we can expand the existing economic relationship," Curr said.
“We are happy to share our expertise on our region, Asia Pacific, which is a place where Turkey is trying to grow … politically and commercially,” Curr said adding that new embassies in the Pacific region were in the pipeline.
Curr said Turkey and New Zealand cooperated in terms of Syrian civil war and the refugee situation.
"We are hoping to finalize soon an agreement with Turkey to found the construction of a new school in Sanliurfa [in southeastern Turkey],” he added.
Curr said both Turkey and New Zealand had soldiers in Iraq “trying to strengthen the Iraqi military” and added: “We are partners with Turkey in the fight against terrorism generally, whether that’s Daesh terrorism or PKK terrorism.”
Regarding the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey that resulted in 249 deaths last year, for which Ankara blames the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), Curr said New Zealand “strongly supports Turkey”.
“Even countries 16,000 kilometers apart, as we are geographically, are actually much closer in terms of friendship,” Curr said.