By Zehra Nur Duz and Ali Murat Alhas
ANKARA (AA) – President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday applauded the humane stance of the people of New Zealand following last week's twin mosque attacks in Christchurch city.
“The people of New Zealand gave a lesson of humanity to those who did not get their share of humanity,” Erdogan told a live broadcast in Istanbul.
At least 50 Muslims were killed and as many injured on March 15 when a terrorist — identified as Australian-born Brenton Tarrant, 28 — entered the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch and shot worshippers in cold blood, including four children younger than 18.
Hundreds of people gathered in front of the Mosques to pay tribute to the victims as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called for unity and solidarity with the Muslim community.
During the live interview, Erdogan also praised the mass gatherings at the scene of attacks and people's act of respect to the victims.
Erdogan went on to say that the people of New Zealand could never be linked to terrorism.
“They organized memorial services, they gathered at the scene of the incident and left flowers to pay tribute to the victims. These are acts of humanity. We can't ignore these acts of humanity," he added.
The Turkish leader expressed his "heartfelt" thanks to the people of New Zealand once again for their strong stance against terrorism and solidarity with the victims.
He reiterated that attacks in Christchurch "was not an individual act of terrorism but an organized act of terrorism".
The authorities in New Zealand will disclose the perpetrators behind the attacks, he believes.
Erdogan also praised Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for her "applaudable statements" and strong stance following the attacks.
- Status of Hagia Sophia
On Istanbul's iconic Hagia Sophia Museum, Erdogan said they can address the city landmark as a mosque.
When asked whether the Museum could be free of charge for Turkish citizens he replied: "It is not something impossible, it could be done easily. In fact, we could name it Hagia Sophia Mosque instead of a museum so that everybody can visit it without charge."
"Just as the tourists visit Blue Mosque [in Istanbul's Fatih neighborhood] without a charge, we could do the same thing for Hagia Sophia," he added.
Hagia Sophia, dubbed "8th Wonder of the World" by historians, is one of the most visited museums in the world in terms of art and architecture history, welcomes visitors with all its glory.
It was used as a church for 916 years and converted into a mosque by Fatih Sultan Mehmet after conquering Istanbul in 1453.
Following restoration works made during the Ottoman era and minarets added by Mimar Sinan, the Hagia Sophia became one of the most important monuments of the world architecture.